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This was how they lined out at the start of the senior championship - now we're down to Scariff-Ogonnelloe and Truagh-Clonlara. Who will win?

Camogie bosses look forward with optimism ahead of Clare final

Eoin Brennan speaks to the management teams of Scariff Ogonnelloe and Truagh-Clonlara ahead of this weekend’s senior camogie final

Fresh voice aids new look Scariff Ogonnelloe

It’s not easy to walk in the shadow of giants but following Jim Minogue’s epic 2019 adventure through Clare and Munster, a new management under David Sullivan have already made their own indelible mark by guiding Scariff-Ogonnelloe back to a county senior decider for only the second time in their short history.

The Tipperary native who had previous senior camogie experience in Galway, Tipperary and Offaly actively sought out the job once it became available and has made the transition appear seamless with a perfect five match winning run to Saturday’s decider.

“Sometimes when you have the five years of the previous management and they’ve done so well, it’s always going to take something new and different when the next backroom team comes in.
“Especially with me being an outsider from Tipperary, they either take to you or they won’t but in fairness to this group of players, they’ve stuck to everything I’ve said and asked of them and have shown me great determination and commitment so it’s great that we’ve gotten through to a county final.

“We said at the start of the year that the one thing we wanted was to be there when the county final day comes and thankfully that’s exactly where we are. We know the challenge that awaits us on Saturday but there’s only two teams remaining so we’ll look forward to giving a big performance on the day.”

Scariff-Ogonnelloe’s progress is even more impressive when you factor in that this is a relatively new-look side, aided by a burgeoning underage system that has provided options for Sullivan to assimilate into the flagship team.

“From the team that won the Munster Club in 2019, we’re actually down five of that squad and I knew that coming into the job. But I also knew that what I’m down, I’d be making up for in young talent coming through from minor. We’d six girls on the county minor squad this year so to have that quality to replace girls who were only a year or two older than them anyway is just great.

“It’s a fabulous club from Under 6 to senior, they’ve a great structure, they’ve great volunteers and there’s tremendous goodwill from the community. Last Sunday, we qualified for a Minor A Camogie Final against Inagh-Kilnamona the week after the senior final and we still have Under 16 and Minor finals to play from last year. So the structure is there and the players are coming so it’s just a matter of trying to keep the senior girls there and keep introducing younger players each year.”

“But as a club, you couldn’t ask for a better model of a club than Scariff-Ogonnelloe who are fanatic in the way they operate and do things.”

Grounded by strong underage roots, Scariff-Ogonnelloe are keen to establish themselves as a senior force, having lowered both Newmarket-on-Fergus and Inagh-Kilnamona in the same championship season for the second time in two years.

“It’s kind of strange in one way that you’d think that if you beat Newmarket and Inagh-Kilnamona, you’d have the championship won by this stage but it just goes to show the quality that’s in Clare. Every year, there’s definitely three or four teams that can put their hand up and say ‘I’ve a great chance of winning the McMahon Cup this year’.

“Such is the strength of the Clare championship that the last couple of county champions have also gone on to contest a Munster Final afterwards.

“But Saturday is a new opponent and I know the strength of challenge that awaits us. We’re unbeaten coming into it and they’re unbeaten going into it so the final is made up of the two best sides in the county this year.

“It’s going to be a really tough test and probably the toughest one of the year to date but you expect that in a final and we ain’t half bad ourselves so I think Clare Camogie are in for a real treat.”

Family ties are strong in Truagh Clonlara

Family bonds run deep throughout every club in the country but Truagh-Clonlara’s management team certainly has more marital ties than most.

Indeed, Bob Caulfield’s backroom team has a distinctly familial feel to it as selector and son-in-law Eamon Noonan explains with more than a wry smile on his face.

“Bob has been involved for ten years with the flagship adult team and first he asked his favourite son-in-law Ger [O’Connell] to get involved, then he said he’d ask his second favourite son-in-law John [Conlon] would he have a go this year and I suppose he was feeling sorry for me so he said ‘look, will you come along and carry a few bibs and the water bottles.”

It’s better to have in-laws than outlaws though as Truagh-Clonlara prepare for their first ever senior camogie decider this Saturday in Clarecastle.

“It’s fantastic,” beamed Kilmallock native Noonan who has been residing in Clonlara for the past decade.

“We had a great night last Thursday when a lot of the underage members of the club came down and met the senior team. They had a puck around with the squad and took a few photos. So that was fantastic as those young kids will be looking up to the girls as role models on Saturday and hopefully we can keep as many of those young girls playing and competing in their own senior final someday.”

Truagh-Clonlara’s current journey to the senior decider has taken great patience and perseverance, having been agonisingly close over the past five years that included successive last four extra-time bouts with Newmarket-on-Fergus in 2018 and ’19.

“The team has been to a lot of semi-finals and just couldn’t get over the line so it’s fantastic to make it to a final. We’ve been taking it game by game, quarter by quarter even if truth be told, and it will be the same on Saturday as well. It’s just another game that we’ve got to go out and try to get the best out of ourselves.”

The novelty factor of a first ever senior decider between Truagh-Clonlara and Scariff-Ogonnelloe is offset by the fact that their opponents have already been in the winners enclosure previously, with Scariff-Ogonnelloe’s remarkable 2019 season making them favourites to win back the McMahon Cup.

“Inagh-Kilnamona and Scariff-Ogonnelloe have been setting the standard for the last number of years and we’re just trying to get to that standard on a consistent basis. That’s our overriding goal so we’ll see how far we’ve progressed on Saturday.

“Scariff-Ogonnelloe are a formidable outfit that could have easily been contesting an All-Ireland Club Final in 2020 so we’re under no illusions as to the test and the challenge that’s ahead of us. They obviously have a huge amount of experience but they also have great young players coming through the ranks.

“I was down at the minor game on Sunday night when they [Scariff-Ogonnelloe] played Truagh-Clonlara in the semi-final and they had some excellent players on show.

“Look, at the end of the day, when you’re in a final you want to win and let’s be honest anything can happen in a two horse race. We can’t control the opposition so we can only focus on ourselves and try to get the best out of ourselves. And if that’s good enough, fantastic and if not, then we’ll just have to go back and see how we can learn for next year.”

Win or lose, would there be the possibility of another son-in-law joining the management team?

“There is another son-in-law there but he’s from Dingle, not a hurling stronghold, so he hasn’t been called up yet. But hey, you never know…”

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