Clare senior manager Tricia O’Grady admits this weekend’s clash with Galway in the All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship is “one of the biggest games this group have faced”.
“We know that it’s win or our season is over. They gave us a right licking in the league, a right trouncing. They probably are a more experienced side than Kilkenny but they haven’t delivered on that,” said the Newmarket woman.
Asked if earning a draw against All-Ireland champions Kilkenny has put extra pressure on the team, she answered, “We know we have it in us to compete with the best. Consistency has been our problem. In any given year, we have taken a scalp but we need to do this on a consistent basis and that’s where the pressure is”.
O’Grady and her backroom team must plan without defender Amy Barrett for Saturday’s vital clash. Barrett picked up a hand injury in the game with Kilkenny, which rules her out.
Clare must win to keep their hopes of qualifying for the knock-out stage of the championship alive. They are currently in fourth spot, a point behind Dublin, who travel to play Kilkenny this week. Defending champions Kilkenny will carry the favourites tag into this one and, if they can win, a win for Clare over Galway will see the Banner outfit move into third spot and into the championship quarter-final.
“It’s in our own hands. Our undoing was not beating Dublin in the first round. Had we won that one and then all points against Kilkenny, we would be in a comfortable position right now. We must play to our strengths. These girls have gained a lot of experience this year. They have matured as players. While they are youthful, they are standing shoulder to shoulder with experienced players. Yes, we face a stiff challenge but we have shown that we can play at this level,” O’Grady said.
The team to start Saturday’s game, which throws in at Cusack Park at 5.30pm, won’t be finalised until later this week but, not for the first time, Clare will be looking to Chloe Morey, Maire McGrath, Niamh O’Dea, Orlaith Duggan and the McMahon sisters for leadership.They will have to be at their best if they are to overcome a side that will include Ailish O’Reily, Aoife O’Donoghue, Rebecca Henley and Niamh McGrath.
It’s a big ask but Clare have shown they can match the best and a repeat of the form they showed in Nowlan Park last time out will give them a great chance of keeping their championship hopes alive.
By Seamus Hayes sports editor