Heartbroken: Orla O'Dwyer pictured following Tipperary's one-point defeat to Wexford in 2016. Photo: Inpho
Tipperary’s 2016 Camogie league and championship campaign came to an agonising end - Brian Boyle’s fast-improving team lost a league semi-final after extra-time to Kilkenny before progressing to an All-Ireland quarter-final which the Premier County lost by a single point to Wexford. Tipperary had an opportunity to feel sorry for themselves, but this group of players are not prepared to take up the offer. There is no sign of a victim complex here.
On Saturday, February 18th Tipperary will launch their Littlewoods Ireland National Camogie League campaign away to Kilkenny - the defending league and All-Ireland champions. And, manager Brian Boyle and his team know now that 2016 stands for nothing. Indeed, Tipp can’t wait to get stuck into the job of realising their searing potential.
“What has really been noticeable so far is the ambition (of the players), but also the recognition that in countless sports you will find teams who get that far, think they are ready to knock on the door and all of a sudden find themselves back down at the bottom again,” senior Camogie team manager Brian Boyle told the Tipperary Star this week.
“We have spoken long and hard about that with the players - I think there is a realisation there that last year is gone. We didn’t collect silverware. Last year is going to be worth sweet nothing against other teams this year. That’s the single biggest talking point so far - we have to kick on and the players have to ask more of themselves than they ever have in the past. Last year is gone, it’s a whole new year and it brings with it a whole new set of challenges.”
Brian Boyle (Drom & Inch) is joined on the management team by coach Denis Kelly (Toomevara) and selectors Tim Maher (Burgess-Duharra), Sarah Devane (Ballina) and Bill Mullaney (Newport).
Tipperary County Council cathaoirleach Siobhan Ambrose pictured making a presentation to Tipperary senior manager Brian Boyle alongside Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh at a recent civic reception hosted in honour of the intermediate Camogie team which won the Munster final last summer.
And, Brian Boyle is enjoying his third season in charge. The group is defined by their ambition and a desire to build on a series of underage All-Ireland successes.
“A lot of these girls have been reared on winning - there is only one (player on the panel) who has not won an underage All-Ireland,” Brian Boyle explained.
“They have all been driving it on. There’s no sense of resting on laurels. It has been fantastic. What I have noticed about them is that there is a commitment there, but there is also a realisation there that ambition on its own is not worth anything unless you put in the work. That is plain and simple. We have a panel of 43 (players) and they are prepared to do whatever is best for Tipperary Camogie. There is a huge willingness there to push themselves more than they ever have before - that is the mantra for the year,” Brian Boyle added.
“The pool of talent that we have at our disposal is huge - it’s as good and as big as anything that the top four teams have. It’s just a case of bringing all of that together, having the right ambition and, hopefully, the right blend of everything. Then, hopefully, we will see the benefit of it.”
Preparations for the league campaign have been hindered a little by Burgess-Duharra’s involvement in the All-Ireland club series and although a whole host of players have been tied up in Ashbourne Cup action in recent weeks Brian Boyle is not inclined to make excuses.
“During the early part of the year we are usually dictated to by the college competitions in terms of where we are and what we can do,” Brian Boyle explained.
“It usually takes us two weeks to get up and running. We have the two best teams in the country in the first two rounds of the league and it will be brilliant just to see where we are. We will taking on those teams head on - okay, we won’t have as much hurling done as we would have liked to, but we will be looking for a terrific attitude going out against those two teams,” Boyle said.
“That’s what we are looking for in year three - we are looking for players to have a bit of ambition about themselves, to take themselves seriously. If we want to be in contention in the summer these are the teams that we are going to have to contend with. We have to get into the habit of going out to play these teams with a strong mind-set.”
The Tipperary Camogie team which lost out to Wexford in the 2016 All-Ireland quarter-final. Photo: Inpho
Tipperary have been drawn in group one of the Littlewoods Ireland National Camogie League alongside Waterford, Wexford and Dublin while Tipp will face Kilkenny and Cork during the opening two rounds of the competition. Brian Boyle has opted to pull a large panel of players together in preparation for the campaign - every player will enjoy an opportunity to impress.
“We have huge resources at our disposal in terms of player talent. We intend to use that and where possible give players game time and the chance to prove themselves. Then we hope to carry a bit of cut and bite about ourselves into the championship,” Brian Boyle said as his thoughts turned to the prospect of facing the All-Ireland champions on Kilkenny soil.
“There is no doubt that Kilkenny are rightfully regarded as the best team in the country and, I suppose, people would perceive that they would always have an extra gear on opposition like us. Any time we have come up against Kilkenny we have learned a huge amount about ourselves. They are the yardstick that we have to measure up to, but we are looking at it as a fabulous opportunity to go out and play them. We see it as the plumb game in the first round. We really want to see what we measure up to.”
The Tipperary senior Camogie panel: Andrea Loughnane (Thurles Sarsfields), Anne Eviston (Drom & Inch), Aoife McGrath (Drom & Inch), Aoife Moloughney (Shannon Rovers), Beenie Larkin (Shannon Rovers), Cait Devane (Clonoulty-Rossmore), Caoimhe Bourke (Drom & Inch), Caoimhe Maher (Burgess-Duharra), Carol Casey (Cahir), Caroline Mullaney (Newport-Ballinahinch), Ciannait Walsh (Éire Óg Annacarty), Ciardha Maher (Burgess-Duharra), Clodagh Quirke (Clonoulty-Rossmore), Eimear Loughman (Clonoulty-Rossmore), Ereena Fryday (Clonoulty-Rossmore), Gemma Grace (Burgess-Duharra), Grace O’Brien (Nenagh Éire Óg), Jenny Grace (Burgess-Duharra), Jenny Logue (Tullaroan, Kilkenny), Julieann Bourke (Borris-Ileigh), Karen Fox (Éire Óg Annacarty), Keely Lenihan (Newport-Ballinahinch), Laura Loughnane (Thurles Sarsfields), Lisa Cahill (Kilruane MacDonagh’s), Lorna O’Dwyer (Holycross-Ballycahill), Mairéad Eviston (Drom & Inch), Mairéad Teehan (Moneygall), Mary Ryan (Moneygall), Megan Ryan (St Cronan’s), Micheala Graham (Moycarkey-Borris), Miriam Campion (Drom & Inch), Niamh Treacy (Drom & Inch), Nicole Walsh (Borris-Ileigh), Orla McEniry (Cahir), Orla O’Dwyer (Cashel), Róisín Cahill (Kilruane MacDonagh’s), Róisín Howard (Cahir), Shauna Quirke (Éire Óg Annacarty), Teresa Ryan (Borris-Ileigh), Sarah Fryday (Clonoulty-Rossmore) and Sinéad Buckley (Éire Óg Annacarty).