Clare’s Junior Camogie side go in search of a place in the All-Ireland Premier Junior final this weekend when they take on Kerry in their last four showdown in Cusack Park on Saturday at 2pm.
The Banner’s second string come into the game on a strong run of form, as they recovered from an opening round loss to Roscommon to record impressive wins on the road against Tyrone and Armagh to seal their spot in the knockout stages.
Two of Clare’s key players for Saturday’s showdown are Broadford’s Niamh Mulqueen and Rebecca Crowe of Ruan, who will soldier together in the saffron and blue before lining out in opposition for their clubs in the championship 48 hours later.
Mulqueen is confident they can get the result to see them into the All-Ireland decider.
“We have worked really hard since mid-October. The group has gelled really well together, so much so that everyone nearly knows everyone’s dogs names at this stage. I think we have a great chance of getting over the line and even thought we might be going in as underdogs considering Kerry were in the final last year, I would still back us to get the job done” she stated.
Clare’s previous two games have been almost as far away from home as possible, as they came back from Armagh and Tyrone with positive results to get their season back on track. Crowe feels that experience has really stood to them in the build up to this weekend.
She said: “We realised after those two long trips that they did do us good. We have been putting the work in since October with plenty of running involved and the long trips were worth it to get the wins. We are really looking forward now to having that semi-final this weekend. We have really pulled up our socks in recent weeks because things just didn’t go our way against Roscommon that first day out and it didn’t go the way we had planned. We have been working on the things that we did wrong that day and we feel we are ready now for the weekend”.
It is the second time that Clare have reached a semi-final this year, as they came within touching distance of reaching the National League Division Three decider. Limerick came out on top of that showdown by 1-11 to 0-10 and Mulqueen feels that experience is something that will stand to them.
“We went to Birr that day to take on Limerick and we might have gone into that game a little bit too confident in thinking that we had beaten them already and we got caught. It really shows that you can’t approach a game thinking that you will just come out with the win, and championship is also just a very different game. Kerry have some really good players who we know will cause problems. They have the likes of Patrice Diggins who is really clinical and will land frees from all over so we know that we will have to work on not giving away frees. It would be huge to beat Kerry and if we do that, then I think we would be in a really strong position for the final” she noted.
Crowe also feels that this weekend is a huge opportunity for the squad to take another step forward in their development.
“We have been working so hard all year and we have picked up the players that we needed to pick up. We know what Kerry will bring to it so our focus now just needs to be on continuing to work right throughout the game and hopefully that will see us come out on top. We need to work as a team to do that so that is what we will be working towards at the weekend” she said.
While they will be united in their efforts for Clare on Saturday, thoughts will then turn to more parochial matters as Broadford and Ruan are set to face off in the opening round of the Clare Junior A championship on Monday evening. The competitive edge was noticeable when this topic was raised and Mulqueen was first to draw the battle lines.
“I think I will actually be marking Crowe on Monday but it will be a good laugh. It is nice that we know each other off the field too, because one day we will be playing together and then a day or two after we are enemies on the pitch and the game face changes” she grinned.
Crowe did not take the bait, and instead outlined what Ruan are hoping to get from this year’s championship.
“We are a very young team and we had a mixed league. We have a few experienced players but we will just see how it pans out for us” she said.
Mulqueen feels it will be a case of hitting the reset button for Broadford.
“We were intermediate last year but we ended up getting relegated by Clarecastle-Ballyea. I think it nearly did us good because the young girls coming up don’t really know the whole senior set-up yet and haven’t really played with us a lot so it will be good for them to get that experience of playing against teams they wouldn’t normally meet and playing against the more experienced opponents. That will hopefully help to build them up and give that confidence for their development” she stated.
This weekend will see action getting underway in the Senior, Intermediate, Junior A and Junior B Clare Camogie championships, with Inagh-Kilnamona getting their bid for a fourth consecutive senior crown underway when they take on Truagh-Clonlara.