By Daragh Ó Conchúir
The action continues apace in the Very Camogie Leagues and Division 1A offers up three intriguing Saturday match-ups that will let us know a lot more about what is likely to unfold with only two more rounds left after this one.
On what can be described as moving week, Cork travel to The Ragg to take on Tipperary in the top-of-the-table clash, while at the bottom, All-Ireland champions Kilkenny go to Parnell Park with both sides looking to get off the mark after two losses.
Then in the middle, hoping to secure top-tier status for another season while also keeping in contention for a place in the decider after securing three points apiece for their respective triumphs, it’s titleholders Galway playing host to neighbours Clare in Kilbeacanty.
VERY CAMOGIE LEAGUE DIVISION 1A, SATURDAY, MARCH 4TH
Dublin v Kilkenny, Parnell Park, 2pm
Referee: Justin Heffernan (Wexford)
The All-Ireland champions look to be short a bit of fitness yet, as they have come strong in the third quarter of both their defeats to take the lead, only to wilt on the home stretch against both Tipperary and Galway.
Probably of more concern to Brian Dowling right now is knee injury suffered by player of the year Miriam Walsh in training, with the results of a scan being awaited eagerly.
Defeat here makes relegation a strong possibility for either side as Dublin have also lost twice but by much more significant margins as reflected by score differences of -6 and -31 respectively.
Gerry McQuaid was pleased with the improvement he saw in the second half after being blown away in the opening period by Cork and they carried that on in the first half against Tipp, though they couldn’t sustain that. A continuation of that trend is probably the priority for the Metropolitans.
Tipperary v Cork, The Ragg, 3.30pm
Referee: John Dermody (Westmeath)
Live stream on https://www.youtube.com/@OfficialCamogie/streams
The Rebels have the better score difference by 14 points after comfortable wins over Dublin and Clare, with skipper Amy O’Connor (above) already totting up a haul of 2-15.
Tipp though, Tipp have only conceded a goal less and still scored 6-22 in accounting for Galway by three goals and then following up in professional fashion against the Dubs.
Cork have three out with cruciate ligament injuries, including talismanic midfielder Ashling Thompson, and are sweating on the fitness of the Mackey twins, with Pamela having made a welcome return this year.
Some interesting positional realignments have been working well but Matthew Twomey will learn a bit more about those and some of his young guns in what is likely to be a more physically taxing affair than they’ve encountered to date.
Denis Kelly has managed to blood youth as well, while the long-serving Mary Ryan is closing in on a return and fellow All-Star Cáit Devane had her first start last weekend after being introduced in the victory over Galway. With a relatively clean bill of health and the likes of Eimear McGrath, Courtney Ryan, Clodagh Quirke and Karen Kennedy going well, Tipp will be danger to any team when it’s all to play for.
Galway v Clare, Kilbeacanty, 3.30pm
Referee: Gavin Donegan (Dublin)
Clare were brought crashing back to earth by Cork after claiming Kilkenny’s scalp, though the final margin was a little unflattering. This is the ideal opportunity to show that they are capable of being consistently competitive against the elite of the game.
Galway were rocked by Tipp on the opening day but bounced back with a strong final quarter against old rivals Kilkenny last weekend. Carrie Dolan showed fabulous leadership while racking up ten points for Cathal Murray’s crew, including some delightful scores for play.
They needed that, as they are down a lot of players for the duration of the League at least, through injury (three cruciates) and other causes but it was good to see new captain Shauna Healy providing the usual thrust from defence while Ailish O’Reilly looked very sharp in rattling up 1-3.
Lorna McNamara has been the predominant scorer for Clare but they have a number of threats, with Áine O’Loughlin a goal scorer in both outings, Caoimhe Carmody dynamic around the middle and Ziyan Spillane’s pace and workrate a hassle of any defender.