The new manager of the Clare Camogie senior squad is setting out a simple goal for 2019.
Enjoyment of the game is priority number one for Clonlara native Ger O’Connell as he dips his toe into the waters of inter-county management for the first time.
According to Ger: “The game has probably become a little bit too results orientated. I was hurling for 23 years at a decent level and I always loved the game. I knew I was always going to try and get involved in coaching at some level and that’s the one thing that’s really important for me is to love what you are doing. When you create that atmosphere, you play with a little more freedom and grow more as player”.
The former championship winning goalkeeper makes the step up from managing Truagh/Clonlara with the first competitive fixture of his tenure coming when Clare travel to Kilkenny for the opening round of the National League on January 20th.
He admits while he was nervous on the night he first set foot in the dressing room, it wasn’t long before everyone was clear on what is ahead.
“A lot of the girls wouldn’t know me on a personal level, they might only know me through my time hurling with Clonlara. The message I wanted to get across is that to play the game of hurling or camogie, it’s about enjoyment and I really wanted to bring that element back into the dressing room. Things haven’t been great for Clare from a results perspective over the last few years so it’s important that we as a management team got a plan in place for the direction we wanted to take the squad. It’s only early stages yet but I’m confident that everyone knows what we want to do and how we want to do it” said O’Connell.
The 39-year-old might be inexperienced in management at inter-county level but his time with Truagh/Clonlara has seen the club take huge strides. The Division One League title went to the south-east in 2017 while he also guided them to consecutive championship semi-finals over the last two years.
Being involved at the coal-face of the club scene so recently is something O’Connell is hopeful will stand to him as the search for new blood in the squad continues over the coming weeks. He may have to plan without two of his key players for the coming season though as Niamh O’Dea is understood to be considering withdrawing from the panel while Roisín McMahon is set to miss the campaign as she goes travelling. There is some good news as the vastly experienced Fiona Lafferty is reportedly back in training with the panel. O’Connell is confident that the talent is there to make a real push for silverware in 2019.
He said: “Clare have had success in recent years at underage level reaching All-Ireland minor finals while beating the likes of Cork and Galway along the way. There should be no fear factor because they have been really competitive. There’s no doubt there’s massive talent in Clare so it’s really important that everyone gets back enjoying it and get our system of play that they’ll enjoy playing too. I think the day of the long ball is over so we as a management will look at a way of developing our play that everyone will buy into and see where it takes us.”
So what’s the ultimate goal in 2019?
“I just want to see improvements. We won’t feel the time going now until that Kilkenny game and it’s tough start. I haven’t even mentioned much about the other fixtures we have in the league or championship because it’s all about that first one. We will have a few challenge games before that and we will see then how our games plans are coming together. Previous management teams have done brilliant work with the girls in terms of coaching and we want to just continue that as the season progresses” he concluded.
Clare’s 2019 Littlewoods Ireland National Camogie League Fixtures
January 20th: Kilkenny v Clare; January 26th: Clare v Offaly; February 2nd: Limerick v Clare; February 24th: Clare v Dublin.