Eoghan Rua senior camogie manage Joe Passmore is well aware of the challenge that faces his charges next Sunday afternoon.
“Yes, this is a big challenge,” said Joe. “We’ve played in the All Ireland series before but this is different. It’s senior. Milford are a team from Cork packed with players with senior county experience.
“They’re All Ireland champions. They’re red hot favourites. Eoghan Rua are underdogs. In Camogie terms its simple. If you went in to the bookies they wouldn’t give us a chance. Derry plays Cork. Cork wins. Simple as that. So we have nothing to lose. It’s David and Goliath.
“To be honest we’re in totally uncharted waters which isn’t a bad thing. In Derry and even to an extent in Ulster people perhaps have a level of expectation of Eoghan Rua. But senior is literally a different ball game. I have watched Loughgiel’s game against Oulart a year or two back and they were seriously up against it and they lost.
“Over the years Rossa put up some heroic displays. They got over the line once and won a senior All Ireland. They were a superb team led by Jane Adams and that set the benchmark.
“But importantly bear in mind Rossa had built up a serious amount of miles playing challenge matches and they were beaten in a few All Ireland campaign before they got over the line.
“Experience is vital here. Their achievements are an inspiration to all Ulster teams. The likes of ourselves, Loughgiel, Rossa, the other Derry and Down clubs we might have a great rivalry in Ulster competitions, but when a team heads south we are 100% behind them.
“That’s why I admire Rossa’s achievements over the years. Last year they came up just short against Killimor. They could just as easily have got into the final if one or two balls had broken their way. It’s a hard hard position to be in.
“We’re going into the lion’s den playing the All Ireland champions. Even as soon as the whistle went when we defeated Rossa I knew the task that lay ahead. It was daunting. Milford hadn’t qualified yet but I was confident they’d win Munster.
“Milford have been knocking the door there for a few years and they’ve been running up big scores hammering teams by 20 points. No one expects us to do well.
“The pressure is on Milford to reproduce their form to date. They have the big name big game players with the reputations on the line – they have people who have played for Cork, won Ashbournes, won All Irelands. They have every reason to be confident. Milford supplied Cork with three minor captains in a row.
“Anna Geary is a massive Camogie role model, Ashling Thompson a real tough midfielder.
“You have Elaine O’Riordan, their captain, and Maria Walsh who take no prisoners at the back. Up front Marie O’Neill and the Watsons are great for taking a score so we know what we’re up against. I’d say there are people in Cork have the hotels booked for the All Ireland already.
“We’ve been preparing for the game as best we can. This time of the year the weather couldn’t really be worse for preparing for a match of this importance. I just hope it’s been as difficult in Cork!
“But what do you do? We are proud to be the standard bearers for all of Ulster. We’ve reminded our players we might never be back in this position. They are determined to do themselves justice. And to be honest with you they have applied themselves in the best possible way. They are fantastic group of players and a credit to the club.
“There’s player’s like Rosanna (McAleese) and Eilis (McNamee) with exam commitments, Kelly (Maybin) has shift work to juggle. Adelle Archibald is flat out doing tax returns, Sinead Boyle flying home for training, Maureen Heneghan travels from Galway, Katie Mullan balances Irish hockey with Eoghan Rua.
“There’s players in the extended panel mightn’t play on the day but they have contributed massively to training with their efforts.
“The likes of Gráinne (McGoldrick) and Méabh (McGoldrick) are used playing this level at senior so their contribution is vital, they have full time job commitments so it’s hard getting everyone together at the same time.”
Eoghan Rua have made massive strides themselves in recent years winning back-to-back All-Ireland Intermediate titles and just last year regaining the Derry senior title. As the Eoghan Rua manager indicated they have earned the right to be at this stage.
“For us we worked damn hard to earn the right to player senior,” said Joe. “This is the level you want to be at, playing the best. It will be a fantastic experience for our players. This is the standard.
“Having lost the Derry senior championship we wanted to get it back and we got it back. We won the Ulster senior against the odds. Now we’re in bonus territory no matter what happens. You can ask nothing more,” he added.