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By Daragh Ó Conchúir

Lorraine Ryan turned 23 on Tuesday and regarded being at Croke Park to help launch the 2012 camogie championship as the perfect present.

Just as well, because the championship will ensure that there is no party. Today’s first round marks the start of four successive weekends of round-robin action, so debauchery will have to take a back seat.

Many of us would be unwilling to make such a sacrifice but the Galway captain doesn’t view it as such.

“It’s a way of life” she says enthusiastically. “I’m playing county since I’m 14. You know that when the summer comes, it’s three months of our lives. It’s not the end of the world. I’d rather be playing in Croke Park than be out the night before.

“We play it because we love it; nobody is putting a gun to our heads. Everyone that plays county really loves it and we don’t care what else is going on.”

Ryan is a second school teacher at the Pres in Athenry. She is a past pupil too and won an All-Ireland junior schools’ title with them in 2005, having gone all the way with the Galway U16s the previous year.

Gaining a senior memento has been more elusive though, with the westerners falling at the final hurdle in the last two years.

Ryan earned an All-Star for her performances at left corner-back last year but that doesn’t stop the memories of last season being largely of disappointment. But the Killimordaly clubwoman is inclined to consign that game to history.

“You can’t keep dwelling on it because it’s gone. We can’t do anything about it. Of course you’re always going to have is all there again. The minors had a great win this year and they’re in with us as well now.

“(With) the intermediates and seniors are training together, (there) is a great mixture of youth and experience. There’s a great buzz and it’s great training because you have such a big panel. As well as that the management gets a good look at everyone.”

Tony Ward has returned as manager and that is a boost, given that the Sarsfields man was at the helm when Galway got their hands on the O’Duffy Cup for the only time in 1996. Remarkably, Veronica Curtin is still around from that team, having reversed her decision to retire, while Therese Maher remains a key leader, having joined the panel the following season.

It is that blend of experience with the emerging youthful enthusiasm that Ryan hopes will pay dividends. Whatever happens though, the responsibility lies with the players she insists.

“Management can do all they can for us, which they do. There’s no stone left unturned. But at the end of the day it’s down to what we do on the field. They can’t go out and hurl for us so hopefully we can go out and do it.”

They get the campaign under way against Offaly in Banagher at 2.30pm this afternoon.

“They’ve come up from junior and intermediate and have done quite well since coming up. They’re a young team and they’re very physical. We know we’re in for a tough challenge and we’re focussed totally on them.”

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