Pictured at the Tipperary Camogie Board's meet and greet in 2019 were - from left: Christina Brennan, Niamh Ryan, Eimear McGrath, Amy Lillis, Niamh Treacy, Aoife McGrath and Caoimhe Bourke.
The message is clear from the Tipperary camogie camp - the 2020 vision for the Premier County is to take another step forward. Bill Mullaney's squad progressed as far as the All-Ireland semi-finals in 2019, but newly-installed joint-captain Aoife McGrath believes that the Premier County are ready and eager to push on this season.
“Tipp camogie went through a rebuilding period during the last few years and we have made great strides, but at the end of the day you want to be playing on the big stage. You want to be playing in Munster finals and in All-Ireland finals - you want to be playing on those big days. So, that's the aim for 2020, to take another step forward,” Aoife McGrath told the Tipperary Star as the Premier County prepare to launch their Littlewood's Ireland National Camogie League division one campaign this week.
The Tipperary senior team will launch their Littlewood's Ireland National Camogie League division one campaign on Sunday, February 2 against Limerick at the LIT Gaelic Grounds in Limerick (throw-in 4pm) - this clash will form the second part of a double header; Limerick will take on Galway in division 1A of the Allianz National Hurling League at 2pm at the same venue.
And, in advance of the campaign Tipperary manager Bill Mullaney has announced the joint-captains of both the Premier County's senior and intermediate teams. Aoife McGrath (Drom & Inch) and Cáit Devane (Clonoulty-Rossmore) have been installed as the joint-captains of the senior side while Claire Stakelum (Holycross-Ballycahill) and Sabrina Larkin (Shannon Rovers) have been named as the joint-captains of the intermediate team.
DELIGHTED AND HONOURED
Aoife McGrath has been a member of the Tipperary senior panel since 2012 and celebrated the beginning of her eighth campaign in the blue and gold when Bill Mullaney's panel returned to collective training on January 1.
“I am delighted and honoured to even be considered - it is a privilege. Any day that you are asked to captain your county is an honour. So, (I am) absolutely delighted with it,” Aoife McGrath said before explaining that the responsibility associated with the role would not develop into any sort of burden for the wing-back who captained Drom & Inch to a famous county final win over Burgess-Duharra last October.
“It is a responsibility, but any day you go out you need fifteen leaders on the field and more coming off the bench,” Aoife McGrath said.
Tipperary have been drawn in group two of division one in the Littlewood's Ireland National Camogie League alongside Limerick, Galway and Dublin. The Premier County are away to Limerick on February 2, home to Dublin on February 23 and away to All-Ireland champions Galway on March 8. Meanwhile Kilkenny, Clare, Offaly, Waterford and Cork will battle it out in group one. In division two the Tipp intermediate team will face Dublin (home) on February 9, Laois (home) on February 23 and are away to Antrim on March 8.
“It isn't something that we have talked about as a group, but we are looking forward to the start of the league next weekend against Limerick,” Aoife McGrath explained when asked if the Tipperary panel had set any specific goals ahead of the forthcoming league campaign.
“We will be going hell for leather. I know it is only the league, but at the same time you are going out to win every match that you play in. We had great success last year in getting to an All-Ireland semi-final, but we want to drive on again. Tipp camogie is definitely on the up. You want to be getting to finals whether that is a league final, Munster final or an All-Ireland final. You want to be playing on those big days.”
The Tipperary senior camogie team joint-captains Aoife McGrath (Drom & Inch) and Cáit Devane (Clonoulty-Rossmore).
Tipperary's 2019 Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship came to a conclusion at the semi-final stage when the Premier County lost to Kilkenny (3-12 to 2-21). Tipp battled their way into the semi-finals when the Premier County beat Limerick 1-10 to 1-5 in the quarter-finals.
Tipperary lost their opening game during the group stage of the 2019 championship to Cork (1-8 to 2-20), but the Premier County bounced back to register four successive wins over Waterford (4-11 to 2-14), Clare (2-12 to 1-7), Dublin (1-11 to 0-9) and Meath (0-15 to 0-11) and duly progressed to the knock-out stage of the competition. In the 2019 Munster championship Tipp beat Waterford in the provincial semi-finals (2-23 to 1-8), but lost the decider to Cork (2-10 to 3-17).
In 2019 the Tipperary senior team did not progress to the knock-out stage of the Littlewood's Ireland National Camogie League, but the intermediate side beat Kilkenny (0-14 to 0-8) in the division two final. Last year the intermediate team lost the Munster Intermediate Camogie Championship final to Cork (1-8 to 1-12) before losing to Galway in a subsequent All-Ireland semi-final (2-5 to 2-9).
In the 2020 Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship the Premier County will face Clare (away) on June 13, Galway (home) on June 20, Westmeath (away) on June 27 and Wexford (home) on July 11. In the All-Ireland intermediate championship Tipperary will take on Laois (away) on June 13, Kilkenny (home) on June 20, Derry (away) on July 4, Meath (home) on July 11, Cork (away) on July 18 and Antrim (home) on July 25.
Anything is possible for Tipperary this season and ahead of the new campaign Tipperary joint-captain Aoife McGrath has called on blue and gold supporters to come out and support the team.
“I would like to appeal for support,” Aoife McGrath said.
“Camogie (coverage) is definitely growing in the media thanks to the 2020 campaign and all of that, but a lot more can still be done in terms of getting support locally at the matches. The girls put in an awful lot of effort; just as much as the men do and they don't get the support and attention that they deserve. It would great if Tipp supporters could make an effort and get to the matches, especially the local matches. The Ragg is fairly central for supporters and a lot of our matches are on there. It would really be great if we could get a little bit more support.”
And, with accomplished players and people of real quality like Aoife McGrath featuring on the Tipperary team supporters will not be disappointed when they come to see this Premier County team in action.
“I definitely think so,” agreed Aoife McGrath.
“There is massive skill on show every time. So, I definitely don't think they will bit be disappointed any time they come along,” the Drom & Inch star added before describing how the Tipperary panel was looking forward to showing the entire county what they can do during the forthcoming league campaign.
“Everyone is feeling positive and looking forward to the league kicking off because you can play all of the challenge matches that you want, but you really want to be playing competitive matches. So, we are looking forward to the first round of the league,” Aoife McGrath said.
The Tipperary senior and intermediate camogie teams are both guided by an identical management team which is led by manager Bill Mullaney (Newport-Ballinahinch).
The teams are coached by Eddie Costello (Drom & Inch - Eddie is also an S&C coach), Dinny Ferncombe (Holycross-Ballycahill) and Brian Kennedy (Foynes, Limerick) while Carmel Bradshaw (Ballina) and Mary Howard (Cahir) are both selectors. Carmel Bradshaw also performs the role of logistics manager. Kevin O'Connor (Kinnity, Offaly) works as a strength and conditioning coach with the players while Kellie Byrne (Holycross-Ballycahill) is the team physiotherapist. Maggie O'Grady (Thurles Sarsfields) takes responsibility for video analysis while Peter Maher (Thurles Sarsfields) is the equipment manager and the kit man is Kevin Bourke (Drom & Inch).
In 2019 Bill Mullaney was forced to step away from his role as team manager, but this week joint-captain Aoife McGrath was eager to emphasise how delighted the Tipperary panel was to have the Newport-Ballinahinch man back involved.
“It's definitely a positive,” Aoife McGrath explained.
“It wasn't ideal that Bill had to step down for health reasons last year, but he has done great things for Tipp camogie during the last few years at senior, intermediate and minor level. So, he brings a lot of experience to the set-up and we are glad to have him back. Obviously, it wasn't ideal last year (that he had to step away), but your health is the most important thing at the end of the day. We are just glad to have him back with a full bill of health.”
FULL TIPPERARY PANEL
The 49-strong panel of Tipperary players who are currently busy preparing for the start of the Littlewood's Ireland National Camogie League campaign reads as follows: Clodagh Quirke, Cáit Devane, Emer Loughman, Sarah Fryday, Casey Hennessey (all Clonoulty-Rossmore), Grace O’Toole, Thea Curtin, Emma Flanagan (all Newport-Ballinahinch), Sabrina Larkin (Shannon Rovers), Róisín Howard (Cahir), Ciardha Maher, Ciara McKeogh, Ciara Houlihan, Jenny Grace, Emily Morrissey (all Burgess-Duharra), Andrea Loughnane, Laura Loughnane, Nicola Loughnane, Karen Kennedy (all Thurles Sarsfields), Ereena Fryday, Beth Ryan (both Knockavilla Kickhams), Mary Ryan (Moneygall), Roseanna O’Donnell, Jean Kelly, Aoife Butler (all Éire Óg Annacarty), Claire Stakelum (Holycross-Ballycahill), Mary Burke, Aoife McGrath, Eimear McGrath, Miriam Campion, Niamh Treacy, Niamh Long (all Drom & Inch), Laura Shinners (Kilurane MacDonagh's), Grace O’Brien, Hazel McAuliffe (both Nenagh Éire Óg), Caoimhe Purdue, Karin Blair, Aine O’Dwyer, Orla O’Dwyer , Nicole Shelly, Sorcha Ryan (all Cashel), Ciara Ryan (Silvermines), Clodagh McIntyre (Lorrha), Sarah Delaney (Boherlahan), Shauna Quirke, Margaret Quigley (both Toomevara), Nicole Walsh, Julieanne Burke (both Borris-Ileigh) and Aisling Sheedy (Portroe).
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