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David Sullivan patrols the line as tensions run high on the Scariff/Ogonnelloe bench with the clock ticking down to the final whistle in their semi-final. Photograph by Eugene McCafferty

Sullivan aims for perfect end to debut season with Clare champs

In terms of debut seasons as manager, David Sullivan has achieved everything he could have asked for with Scariff-Ogonnelloe, writes Ivan Smyth.

After taking the reins from Jim Minogue, David Sullivan has helped Scariff-Ogonnelloe reclaim the county title after coming unstuck against Newmarket at the semi final stage in 2020.

His side are now just 60 minutes away from securing a second Munster crown in three years although the Tipperary native admits he found settling in to the new role with Scariff-Ogonnelloe challenging initially due to the pandemic. When Sullivan was appointed, COVID restrictions meant GAA teams could not train together.

“It was tough to be honest. I’m hands on when it comes to coaching. I like to see the players on the field and go from there. I have to give credit to our S+C coach Ronan Moore as he did up plans for the girls which kept us going.”

“It wasn’t a perfect way to start by any means but when we hit the field we were ready to play. They (the players) are a joy to work with. They drive from Cork, Carlow, Dublin, Galway, all over Ireland, just to train.”

The 2019 Munster champions have certainly earned their place in the provincial decider. They came through and topped a tough five team group before downing the reigning champions Inagh-Kilnamona at the semi final stage.

They needed a late Abby Walsh point to rescue a draw in their county final against Truagh-Clonlara before producing an improved display to emerge 1-12 to 0-8 winners. They then overcame a slow start against Iniscarra in their Munster semi final as Scariff-Ogonnelloe’s hard work during the winter months increasing hopes of playing further camogie in spring.

“It has been hectic but the camogie has been a great distraction over the Christmas. It has been great craic and the atmosphere has been as good as I’ve seen it. On the numbers front cases have been very high but we’ve only had one or two cases. The girls have conducted themselves brilliantly.”

“The response has been crazy from the girls. We have been training hard with the Iniscarra game being after Christmas and now we are going again. I have to say there is huge trust between us all. They trust us on the sideline to make the right calls while we believe in the group so it couldn’t be any better. We want to win and keep this run going.”

Sullivan has not been afraid to give youth a chance throughout the Championship. Scariff-Ogonnelloe were crowned Minor A champions last November with six players on that team starting both county finals.

Ten players have won 2021 Minor A and senior titles with Bonnie Wiley-Murphy, Abby Walsh, Jennifer Daly, Lorraine Grady, Labhaoise O’Donnell, Alva Rogers, Eimear Rogers, Danielle Beston, Roisin Collins and Robyn McKenna all showcasing the hard work at underage level.

“Scariff-Ogonnelloe are the perfect role model for any club. The work done at underage is unreal. The amount of volunteers who give their time is fantastic and the time they give is the reason these players can come through the ranks. Our success has been hard earned.”

“It’s great to win a minor final and as a club the county and Munster titles in 2019 were brilliant but it’s time to make a legacy. We have a golden generation in the club. We are desperate to get that second Munster title.

“We want to make full use of the players while they are in their prime.”

Aoife Power is the only player set to miss out through injury as she continues to rehab her anterior cruciate ligament injury.

With pitches still heavy at this time of year, Scariff-Ogonnelloe have had to dig deep with their defence providing the platform for success. They conceded just eight points against Iniscarra while also not shipping a goal in their county final replay and their last four clash with Inagh-Kilnamona.

Rachel Daly has stepped in between the sticks which has allowed Aisling Corbett to play up front with her free taking proving vital in the provincial semi final. The 2019 Munster champions fell four points to no score behind in the early stages of that game before working their way back in to the contest as Alva Rogers’ goal proved the difference in the end.

“We’ve huge experience back there. Ciara Doyle and Susan Daly have been making huge waves. Susan Vaughan has had a great career while Bonnie Wiley-Murphy is making great progress. We kept Iniscarra scoreless for 32 minutes while we held Truagh-Clonlara 40 minutes without a score. Rachel Daly has been incredible in goal and has kept three clean sheets in the last four games.”

“We wanted to avoid relying on one or two players for scores in the Championship. The younger girls have no fear of stepping up. Abby (Walsh) got the leveller against Truagh-Clonlara.. Lorraine Grady got a goal in the county final replay while last time it was Alva Rogers. Against Iniscarra conditions were tough and ‘Bob’ (Aisling Corbett) stood up and fired over some important frees. We have different avenues to get scores.”

Drom & Inch will prove formidable opposition. The Tipperary outfit beat Inagh-Kilnamona by a point in the 2020 Munster final, played two months ago, while they also provided the opposition when Scariff-Ogonnelloe won their first Munster senior crown in 2019.

Sullivan is prepared for a huge test as his side try to progress through to the All Ireland series.

“They have a fantastic half back line and some quality players up front including (Miriam) Campion and (Eimear) McGrath. They have a similar approach to ourselves and they bring a big physical threat. We have to be prepared for that.”

“We need to get the basics right and trust each other and our ability. We have shown that we have the ability to never panic because at times things have been going against us but we will always give 100 per cent.

“It will take a serious performance from Drom & Inch because we have great momentum coming in to this.”

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