By Therese O'Callaghan
IT is all systems go for Offaly, Cork, Wexford and Tipperary in the Liberty Insurance All Ireland senior camogie championship this weekend. Lots at stake for the four teams involved.
A big day in St Brendan’s Park, Birr for Offaly with the Premier Junior side kick-starting the afternoon up against Waterford at 1.30pm, and then the seniors entertaining Cork with a 3.15pm throw-in.
The Rebels are already guaranteed qualification for the knock-out stages (three wins from three), however with one victory from two outings, the Faithful County will be hoping to impress. A thrilling one-point victory against Limerick in Round 1 was followed by a seven-point loss to Wexford.
Under the stewardship of former Offaly hurler Paddy Kirwan – whose daughter Orlagh in also on the panel – they will be wanting to bounce back.
They have been dealt a blow though, with the news that vice-captain Lorraine Keena has injured her anterior cruciate ligament and it is expected she will not feature for the remainder of the summer. As a result, Kirwan will have to shuffle his back-six due to the loss of the experienced player.
Incidentally, Lorraine picked up a similar injury on her opposite knee in 2013.
Meanwhile, Offaly legend Marion Crean has retired from the squad. The Shinrone star and former winning captain leaves after giving extraordinary service to the jersey.
In the meantime, Cork welcome back Julia White and Eimear O’Sullivan, both returning from injury. Meabh Cahalane, however, is considered a doubtful starter for this tie after picking up a leg injury. However, Amy O’Connor who was substituted in the Wexford game two weeks ago after feeling unwell, is fully fit once more.
Elsewhere, Innovate Wexford Park will also be a hive of activity on Saturday. The intermediate teams of Wexford and Derry are first up at 2pm, and at 3.45pm the Slaneysiders welcome Tipperary. The home side are on three points after two games, whilst the Premier County will be looking to get their campaign up-and-running following losses to Cork and Limerick.
The departure of Wexford great, Kate Kelly, after a distinguished career has been well documented. As well, Mags D’Arcy is not between the posts this year, while Katrina Parrock has signed with Wexford Youths. Lisa Bolger is another to miss out due to a long-term injury, and Louise O’Leary is unavailable. Chloe Fox who went off injured against Cork is a doubt too.
But, it is not all doom and gloom, as there are exciting new players on board this year. Joanne Dillon, Amy Cardiff and Emma Walsh are slotting in nicely alongside the likes of captain Brid Gordon, Ciara Storey, Mary Leacy, Linda Bolger and Una Leacy.
Tipperary will be disappointed with their results thus far, especially finishing 3-12 to 1-20 in arrears to Limerick at Semple Stadium. So, this is a crucial game for them. Roisin Howard and Jenny Grace are currently carrying injuries so it will be a race against time to be fit for this match. Ably led by skipper Mary Ryan, there is better news for Brian Boyle in that Gemma Grace and Teresa Ryan have regained fitness.
Saturday July 15th
Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Championship (Group 2)
Offaly v Cork, St. Brendan’s Park, Birr, 3.15pm, Owen Elliot (Antrim)
Wexford v Tipperary, Innovate Wexford Park, 3.45pm, Cathal Egan (Cork)
For all of this weekends fixtures: http://www.camogie.ie/news.asp?id=5436