Eoghan Rua, Coleraine will put their All-Ireland Intermediate camogie title on the line this Sunday afternoon when they take on Laois Harps in the semi-final in Killyclogher at 2.30pm.
The Coleraine side won their first ever All-Ireland title just last March and ironically it was Laois Harps that they beat in the final, 3-8 to 2-3, in Croke Park. Now the Leinster champions stand in the way of the Derry and Ulster title holders as they attempt to get back to Headquarters to defend their hard won crown.
Of course the six-in-a-row Leinster kingpins will see this as a great opportunity to avenge that crushing Croke Park defeat and keep their own dreams of All-Ireland glory very much on track. The Harps retained their Leinster Intermediate club title by beating Kilkenny’s Dicksboro 0-10 to 0-5 in awful weather conditions way back in October last year.
Eoghan Rua chairman and assistant manager of the camogie team is expecting a tough challenge next Sunday afternoon.
“The Harps have won six successive Laois titles and retained their Leinster crown once again.,” said Brendan McLernon.
“They are a formidable team especially when you consider they have won 3 All Ireland Junior titles. A team like that isn’t used to losing and I am sure they are thirsting for revenge after their All Ireland defeat last March.
“We have great respect for them and are well aware of the challenge they pose to our ambition to return to Croke Park.”
Like the Laois side it has been a long time since the Eoghan Rua side’s last competitive outing, way back in October when they won the Ulster title beating Down champions Ballycran in the final.
A bit of a rest followed but the Eoghan Rua players were back in training around Christmas as Brendan explained.
“We have worked really hard over these last eight weeks or so and feel we are ready for this hugely important game.
“We played well in the Ulster final in October and in recent challenge games against the likes of the Derry and Loughgiel senior teams. We do not intend giving up our title without a tremendous fight.
“The management have every confidence in this exceptional squad who have brought so much glory to our club. So far as we are concerned big match next Sunday is in Killyclogher and we hope our wonderful fans will come out in numbers have another great day out.”
The teams are likely to field along similar lines to their last meeting in Croke Park, certainly the Harps will want to keep a closer order on Eoghan Rua’s hat-trick hero Grace McMullan this time around.
The Harps have an injury doubt over key player Aine Mahony who had to limp off with a bad knee injury in the Leinster final. However they can still call on the likes of top forwards Louise Mahony, Theresa Bennett and Aisling Phelan while captain and corner back Joan Dollard is a classy defender.
The Harps are strong through the middle with the likes of central defenders Denise Quigley and Catriona Phelan while midfielders Louise Mahony and Elaine Mahony are forceful and well able to take a score.
Eoghan Rua will be looking to their hugely experienced central players, Grainne and Meabh McGoldrick, Jane Carey and Grace McMullan to lead the charge. Given the length of time both teams have been out of competitive action
it is very difficult to gauge form. Still given the strides made by this Eoghan Rua outfit over the last few years they will go into Sunday’s semi-final as slight favourites to progress to their second All-Ireland final in a row.
A massive challenge lies ahead for the Eoghan Rua senior camogie team this Sunday afternoon as they feature in the All-Ireland Intermediate camogie championship semi-final against Laois Harps.
Of course no one knows the situation better that Eoghan Rua manager Joe Passmore and his management team who, along with the players have been grinding out the preparation for Sunday’s game. The Coleriane outfit has been putting in the hard yards over the last few weeks in preparation and the Eoghan Rua manager is looking forward to Sunday.
“It’s great to be back in an All Ireland semi final,” said Joe. “It’s a great achievement by this group of girls and I hope people realize the work they put into this.
“To get here we had to retain our Derry and Ulster titles. This season we had to lift our game, the other clubs were gunning for us and fair play to them for that. Knowing what it took to get there before the players have shown great application and great commitment to win first Derry and then Ulster.
“Personally winning the Ulster Final was satisfying for a number of reasons. I thoroughly enjoyed that,” added Joe.
While the players took a break after the Ulster final that early February outing in the All-Ireland series was something that would draw the panel back to the training ground around Christmas time.
“We’ve been training over the winter after taking a break for a while,” he said.
“The weather’s been different than last year, we had to deal with the exceptional snow last time around, this time it has been the wind and rain that has made these sessions a real test. It’s been tough at times.
“Having said all that we’d rather be in this position than sitting at home doing nothing thinking about what might have been. Until you’ve been here you probably don’t realize what it means. We trained eight times I think over Christmas and played a challenge match or two as well.
“We also tried to structure it so the girls got out for a few nights’ craic. You have to let your hair down a bit too,” said Joe with a hint of a smile.
After last year’s tough All-Ireland final the Eoghan Rua man is well aware of the challenge ahead.
“As far as Harps are concerned, they are a quality outfit,” said Joe.
“They have some fine players and having had them watched we know what they’re capable of. We’ll be playing our game however and we’ll see where that takes us. No doubt Harps will have a plan but we have plans too.”
Carrying the hopes not just of the club but Derry into Sunday’s semi is something that resonates with the Eoghan Rua manger.
“We’re very proud to be flying the flag for Derry Camogie, there are a lot of good people involved in Derry and we’ve had loads of good wishes and support. Hopefully a few will get down to Killyclogher to support the girls,” he said.
Joe paid tribute to the dedication of this group of camogs, a panel that has brought huge success to the Eoghan Rua club in recent years.
“Personally it’s a real privilege to work with these players,” he said.
“The whole attitude and atmosphere is tremendous. At this stage I’m looking forward to the game. This is where we want to be. We’ve been here before, we enjoyed it and we’d like to progress further. We’ll be doing our absolute best and we’ll see where that gets us,” concluded Joe.