The buzz in Tipperary, inspiring the next generation and a massive Semple showdown
HOWEVER GOOD THE mood was in Tipperary last week, the buzz has definitely increased tenfold since.
Tipperary star Clodagh Quirke.
Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
Speaking to Premier camogie captain Clodagh Quirke at the Camogie Association’s ‘Go Together’ event in Croke Park last Thursday, she was well and truly gearing up for her side’s All-Ireland quarter-final showdown against Limerick in Thurles.
Since then, Liam Sheedy’s hurlers have booked their All-Ireland final spot after a dramatic win over Wexford at HQ on Sunday.
However excited she was for her side’s turn back then, things must be on another level now.
“Last night we had a meet and greet in Tipperary,” she smiled. “It was brilliant.
“I was talking to a few of the parents there and they were saying that their daughters were telling them, ‘We want to go tonight, we want to go to the game’ and they’re dragging them along. That’s the way it should be.
“It can’t be the parents dragging the kids, you want them to be interested and them to be making their parents bring them along.”
“It’s brilliant,” she adds on the atmosphere in the county. “We were trying to nab a few of them last night to bring a bus and bring as many as they can in.
“It is a great buzz. I think as well with the U20 hurlers inside in Semple the other night, they had a great win [against Cork in the Munster final]. You could see a huge buzz there around.
“Hopefully that will encourage people. It’s only in the road so we’d be asking them to travel in. We want a good crowd at it, we want to see the stands full.”
If they went to Croke Park last weekend, they can tip in to Semple this evening [throw-in 5.30pm, live on RTÉ]. No excuses.
The ‘home advantage’ is something she doesn’t dwell a whole pile on, however. With the Treaty, Galway and Waterford all coming to Thurles for the double-header, truth be told, other counties have probably played there more than her own.
Tipp have played there before, of course, but their fixtures are normally elsewhere.
“It is at home but in a way, we’re not that used to playing in Semple Stadium either,” she explains. “We always play out in The Ragg and if you consider some of the other teams, I’d say some of those girls have probably played there more than we have.
“Obviously, we’d be hoping to get a big crowd in so in that way it may be an advantage. Knowing the field itself, I don’t think we know it much better than some of the other girls.”
After an extremely difficult round-robin campaign, Tipperary finished an impressive second in Group 2 with their only loss coming to back-to-back All-Ireland champions Cork. They ended up playing six games in-a-row, but that will definitely stand to them going forward.
The defender in action at Te Ragg in January.
Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO
An extra game ensued after their clash with Waterford was abandoned following a serious injury to Nicole Walsh. A week later — after the defeat to Cork, actually — they lost their manager Bill Mullaney who stepped down due to health reasons.
“It’s been a tough few weeks for us,” Quirke agreed. “We got off to a shaky enough start with the abandoned game and all the rest. We didn’t have much time to dwell on it.
“In a way it was probably a blessing. We had to park it, move on and focus on the rest of the games. I thought we definitely used all the players on the panel so that’s something to be positive about. I know we’ve had injuries. Girls couldn’t play throughout the year but it gave another opportunity for other girls to step up.
“It was a tough few weeks; game after game.”
“It definitely was a scare for us,” she added on the abandoned game, and Walsh’s injury. “You don’t want to see anyone being taken away in an air ambulance.
“That definitely was tough for us to see, and a bit surreal then heading down to Kilkenny to face them [Waterford] again. It was tough, but to get the win down there was, I think, the turning point for us so far.
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“It was a great buzz after that win. Getting over the line there really set us up for the next few games.”
Up stepped selector Niamh Lillis as interim manager for the Nowlan Park clash, and the Munster side haven’t looked back since with Walsh also back on the line and cheering her team-mates on.
“Niamh is brilliant,” Quirke nods. “We’re lucky that Niamh decided to step up and it wasn’t someone else coming in. We all know how she works.
“In a way, nothing much changed. Training stayed the same because Dinny [Ferncombe] and Eddie [Coatello] still take them, Niamh was always involved anyway. Fair play to her for stepping up there. You couldn’t even really notice that big of a change.
“They did turn to us and they told us to concentrate on the trainings and the games and leave the rest to them. That was brilliant. It took the pressure off the players.
“There were a few days there where we were like, ‘What’s going to happen?’ It’s brilliant the way it worked out that there wasn’t too much of a shift in the management.”
With Cork and Kilkenny waiting patiently in the All-Ireland semi-finals, Quirke acknowledges that they are, without a doubt, the top two. Slowly but surely though, the landscape is changing.
“You can’t dispute that Cork and Kilkenny are up there at the top but I do think there’s teams closing in and the gap is being bridged.
With Limerick star Marian Quaid.
Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
“It’s brilliant to see Limerick and ourselves back up there again. What you want to see is competitive games and more teams stepping up so that we can be on par with the top teams.
“In the past we’ve often been happy to win a game, happy to do this and that; but we want to go further. We are taking it one step at a time.
“I know we’re in a quarter, but obviously we do want to get to the final, like. And that’s our aim. I think it’s the same for other teams. Anything can happen on any given day. We need to get there and see what happens.”
Away from camogie, Quirke works with financial services company Northern Trust in Limerick. But it’s what she does with her spare time, away from her own commitments, that’s most important to her.
She spends a lot of time around her club, Clonoulty/Rossmore, where she coaches the U16s.
“You’re kind of always at the hurling field,” she smiles. But nowhere else she’d rather be. Camogie has given her so much, and it’s important to give back.
“When I look back to when I was younger, it was girls in my club that played with Tipp like Cait Devane and Cora Hennessy… it was only for them.
“They’re the ones bringing you along to the games. We need to do the same for the younger girls in our club. We really want to keep the younger girls playing and keep them all interested. When girls get into their teens, it’s easy for them to drop off.
“You don’t want that to happen because there isn’t many girls out there to play. I think the more time that we invest in them when they’re younger will keep them coming.”
Devane and Hennessy were two, while her parents and family were also massive influences to keep her involved at that age.
“In my own family, everyone plays hurling or camogie at some level. There’s six kids and every one of us have played. In that sense, you couldn’t not play. My mother brought me all around Tipp and wherever to train.
“You have to thank them. They’re the ones that keep you interested.”
And perhaps the most fitting way to thank them at the minute is a massive win on home turf later today. It won’t be easy, but it’s a battle Quirke is relishing.
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