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 Purcell Cup & Ashbourne Shield Previews

Dublin City University v NUI Maynooth
WIT Sports Campus
Referee John O’Leary
The second tier competition of the weekend begins when NUI Maynooth play one of the favourites for the tournament DCU.  If any team has earned their place in the Cup semi finals it has to be Maynooth.  

The Kildare outfit had to play two qualifying matches before they reached the semi finals of the Purcell Cup, defeating IT Tralee in the first match and then overcoming Limerick side Mary I.  

A third of the Maynooth side is made up of Kilkenny players and includes the talented Emma Carroll and team Captain Catherine Walsh.  They are now coming up against one of the competition favourites in DCU have competed consistently in the Purcell Cup in recent years and were beaten finalists in 2011. After the disappointment of last year the Dublin College will have a steely determination to reach this year’s final.  

DCU are under the management of Niall Williams and selector Graham Dillon, while NUI Maynooth are under the guardianship of the experienced Declan O’Toole.  

Laura Twomey captains the DCU side and her midfield partnership with Tipperary’s Christine Kenny will be vital if DCU are to win this match.  Dublin player Twomey has been in outstanding form and DCU will be hoping this continues into the weekend.  
NUI Maynooth have been making excellent strides in third level Camogie but this match could prove to be a step too far and DCU’s experience and determination to make up for last year should give them enough to make it through to the final.  
Queens University Belfast v Dublin Institute of Technology
WIT Sports Campus, 12pm
Referee Martin Quilty
In the second semi final, 2011 Purcell Cup winners QUB meet another Dublin side in DIT.  QUB manager Joe Baldwin is in his third year in charge of the Belfast side and he will be hoping to make it two Purcell Cups in a row this weekend.  

QUB have been impressive in the group stages defeating Cork IT and DCU to finish top of the group.  

They almost caused an upset in the League when they were narrowly defeated by top Dublin College UCD.  Joint Captains Sinead Cassidy and Louise McAleese are their biggest scoring threats.  Both Cassidy and McAleese are recognised intercounty players in Ulster and Queens will be hoping that the duo’s experience will provide an advantage on Saturday.

Kerri Crossey is the lynchpin of their defence and the former Purcell All Star will be a commanding figure that DIT will have to breakdown if they hope to be victorious.  

DIT on the otherhand will not fear anyone and with players such as Grainne Quinn and Emma White in their side then they will be confident of causing an upset.  GAA Development Office and team manager Stephen Hoary knows what it takes to win at College Level and he will have the Dublin girls focused and ready for the match ahead.  
Defending champions Queens will start as favourites and they should have enough experience and fire power to set up a final date with DCU or NUIM. 
Ashbourne Shield Preview
Sunday 19th February
Waterford IT Sports Campus, 12pm
Referee Justin Heffernan (Wexford)
Waterford Institute of Technology play host to the Ashbourne, Purcell and Fr Meaghair Competitions this weekend.  2011 and 2012 Division 1 League finalists UUJ have qualified for the Ashbourne Shield final and will play 2011 winners NUI Galway.  
NUIG are captained by Michaela Morkan for the second year running and Offaly Star Morkan is looking forward to leading her side out against UUJ: "Iit’s a fantastic weekend for Camogie, each team can win on any given day and we know we will face a huge test against UUJ who have already qualified for the Division 1 League Final".  

Clares’ Chloe Morey and Galway Senior players Noreen Coen and Niamh McGrath join Morkan on the NUIG team. 

Down star Sara Louise Carr will lead the University of Ulster and the prolific attacker is looking forward to the weekend stating: "It’s the only weekend where we get to compete on a level playing field with the cream of intercounty players and test ourselves against Cork, Galway and Wexford players who are competing for senior intercounty honours each year."

Carr is joined on the UUJ team by fellow clubmates Paula Gribben and Lisa McPolin who played in Down’s All Ireland Final while Shannon Graham achieved a Soaring Star award in 2011 and 2011 Ashbourne All Star Eleanor Mallon is in goals.  UUJ were unlucky not to qualify for the Cup semi finals, suffering defeats at the hands of UCD and UCC.  

UUJ are under the stewardship of Antrim’s Ashling Jackson this year and Carr believes that they are in with a good chance of collecting some silver wear: "Training has really stepped up since Christmas, we have been training two to three times a week and all the girls have given a huge commitment to attend each one with one player even travelling from Tipperary.  Ashling has us well prepared and focused and we know that we are going to have to work extremely hard to overcome a very good Galway side."

UUJ have some of the top players in Ulster with the highly rated Karen Kielt in their side, as well as two players who have competed in the O’Duffy Cup, namely Tipperary’s Sabrina Larkin and Clares’ Aimee McInerney.   

NUIG will be hoping they can pick themselves up after a disappointing run in the group stages where they lost to WIT and UL.  They will have been pleased with their performances though and will be hoping to build on them when they take on UUJ.  

Best performers during the group stages were Captain Michaela Morkan, Maureen Heneghan, Chloe Morey, Noreen Coen and goalkeeper Roisin Connaughton.  One of their biggest dilemmas is where to play captain Morkan.  Her best position is centre back but the management could decide to play her further up the field to provide a more cutting edge to the attack.

It is a decision that could have a huge bearing on the outcome of the match and one they will hope to get right. Chloe Morey is reaching full fitness after missing the first group game against WIT and the full forward will be hoping that she will be back to her best after a tough run out against UL.  

College Camogie is full of surprises and NUIG will need to be careful against complacency, as it is often the team who works the hardest who will come away with the victory.  Under the management Richard McNicholas, Seamus Hennessey and former Fitzgibbon winner Kevin O’Grady, NUIG are no strangers to success having won the Ashbourne Shield last year and will be hoping to make it two in a row this Sunday. 

A classic encounter is in store and it could go either way.  NUIG will start as favourites but the match is too close to call.

Pictured below at launch of the Ashbourne & Purcell Competitions are: Katie Power, WIT, Mairi Ni Mhuincheain, Trinity College Dublin, Collette Dormer, WIT, Laura Twomey, Dublin City University. The event takes place this weekend in WIT on Sat, Sun 18th & 19th Feb.


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