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Carol O'Leary

Clare face Kilkenny in camogie championship

RETIREMENTS and travel are the main reasons why Clare will begin their All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship this Saturday without half of the team that played in last year’s campaign.
Colm Honan’s charges could hardly have asked for a stiffer test in Round 1, which sees them travelling to the St Lachtan’s grounds in Freshford, Kilkenny to face last year’s All-Ireland runners-up in a game that throws in at 2.30pm.
Experienced forwards Deirdre Murphy, Laura Linnane and Claire McMahon have called time on their inter-county careers, while Fiona Lafferty is pursuing her ladies football interests with Monaghan.
Niamh O’Dea, Laura McMahon, Ailish Considine and Ellen Horgan have travelled outside the country for the summer, while Niki Kaiser is not playing at present.
Adding to the problems for the management team is an injury to Máire McGrath, which makes her a doubtful starter, while Naomi Carroll is unavailable for this weekend’s game.
Having to face Kilkenny is a difficult task at any time but doing so without so many experienced players makes it all the more difficult.
“I went to see them playing Dublin in the first round in Parnell Park last week. They are very strong. They really should have won the All-Ireland last year and they are clearly all out to got that further step this year. We played Galway in a challenge recently and they were also very strong and beat us well,” Honan said.
However, the Clonlara man will still be able to call on a number of experienced players for this weekend’s tie.
Denise Lynch is an experienced goalkeeper, while the side will also include Chloe Morey, Róisín McMahon, Orlaith Duggan, Carol O’Leary and Kate Lynch. They are also all keeping their fingers crossed that Máire McGrath will be fit to take her regular place at full-back.
Among the newcomers in line to make their senior championship debuts are Aoife Keane, Claire Hehir (both Inagh-Kilnamona) and Emer Kwely (Truagh-Clonlara).
“We have had a number of new players in training in recent weeks and they are really great. All have given a tremendous effort, training four times a week, Monday, Wednesday, Friday evenings and Sunday mornings.
“There are some very good underage players around and hopefully we can hold onto them,” the former hurling All-star said.
“We made great progress last year and I was quite excited about this season but we now have to plan without a lot of the players who were key last year. Hopefully, we can build on last year’s progress,” Honan said.
Clare’s remaining group games will be at home to Dublin on July 11, away to Tipperary on July 18 and at home to Derry a week later. Two teams will qualify from the group for the play-off stages

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