Limerick rising through the camogie ranks

The presence of Tipperary and Limerick in the Division 1 semi-finals of the National League this weekend is evidence of the growing competitiveness of camogie at the highest level, with neither All-Ireland champions Cork nor regular contestants Wexford progressing to the last four.
Limerick rising through the camogie ranks

Limerick have shown signs of being a coming force in the past few years, making progress in steady increments from 2013, when they lost the All-Ireland intermediate final but won Division 2 of the League. They ensured their place at senior level 12 months later and have been putting it up to the big guns ever since.

The advancements made this year were very evident, as they beat Cork twice en route to the last four, all under the guidance of Patrickswell clubman John Tuohy, who took over from Joe Quaid, after the former All-Star goalkeeper moved on to Kildare’s hurlers.

The principal at St Paul’s Dooradoyle has managed both Offaly and Limerick minor hurlers in the past and overseen the fortunes of a host of club teams, including his own club, and Bruree, who he led to a county championship in 2006.

He has facilitated the establishment of some younger members in the side, including a few more of the 2014 All-Ireland winning minors, and by bringing in Declan Nash ensured that each squad member has individual strength and conditioning programmes, while also placing an emphasis on nutrition.

“There’s very good potential in the team” says Tuohy.

“There’s a nice blend of youth and experience with some young players coming through from minor last year and hopefully a few more this year. There’s a constant flow of talent coming through so it’s a question of blending those people in, working on their fitness and working on their skill level.

“You’ve the likes of Karen O’Leary and Rebecca Delee coming through now, Niamh Richardson is the same. They had some experience but they’re only bedding down into the team now. They won the intermediate in 2014 and 2015 was about getting used to senior but now is the time to establish ourselves in the top four and that’s what I’m trying to do for Limerick camogie.”

What is notable is that while the brilliant Niamh Mulcahy continues to be leading scorer from placed balls, there is a greater all-round contribution now.

“There has been an over-reliance on a couple of players down through the years. I’m trying to get away from that and make more players responsible throughout the team, from midfield up, even half-backs, that they can score. I’m trying to empower them to have a go themselves as opposed to looking for someone else to do all the scoring.”

They began the season with a five-point win over Cork on February 2 but needed to do it all over again in a play-off to secure their berth in the semi-final. Undeterred, and displaying commendable composure, they did so with seven points to spare.

“It’s always an honour to beat Cork. Cork are the bastions of camogie. They’re superb… they’ve been there or thereabouts always. They’re the benchmark everyone has to get to so beating them twice is good for us and it will give the girls confidence. But one swallow doesn’t make a summer. We’ve a long way to go.”

Galway provide the opposition in St Brendan’s Park, Birr, this afternoon (4pm) and Tuohy is fully aware of the test awaiting his charges.

“They’re excellent. They’re well established and very strong defensively. They seem very strong in the backs, particularly the half-back line is very good. They’ve good scoring forwards. If you lost against Cork, you wouldn’t have this game. Obviously you’re looking at the best teams, the Kilkennys, the Galways, the Corks — they’re the teams you want to be up with. We’re here now and we’ll measure ourselves against Galway and see where we’re at.”

Meanwhile Kilkenny face Tipperary in Carriganore tomorrow at 2pm.

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