Manager Ann urges young braves to have a go against the champs

Manager Ann urges young braves to have a go against the champs
By John Knox @johnknoxkk

Be brave and fear not! Those were the encouraging and challenging words from Kilkenny manager, Ann Downey, to her young troops.

The Cats are facing a big ask in the National Camogie League final against physically strong champions, Galway in Thurles on Sunday (1.30pm), but the former star urged her players to have a go and have no regrets afterwards.

“All we can do is look forward to the final and have a go,” insisted the manager who answered the call to duty when the county was without a boss at the start of the season.

“We didn't set out at the beginning of the year to get into the League final. We took every game as it came.

“But now we are in it and we have a chance to win, so that's not bad,” she added.

The Noresiders have a decent record in the League, having won it 11 times, the last in 2014.

“We know we have a huge task ahead of us,” the 12 times All-Ireland medal continued. “This is a good, physical Galway team.

“They are the League champions. They have contested the All-Ireland final, so they have experience of the big time.”

The manager saw nothing but positives playing a team like Galway, because it had to be a learning experience for her young players.

Galway are in Kilkenny's group in the championship, so it will be good to be able to run the rule over them.

The Cats enter the final having won four of their five earlier games. They were beaten in the League proper by Cork, although that was possibly their best display to date. Then they struggled a bit against Tipperary in the semi-final.

“We were lucky to draw in normal time against Tipp and to win in extra-time, when our fitness was crucial,” Ann recalled.

“We will have to play an awful lot better than we did against Tipp to be even able to compete.”

The players returned to their clubs last week for games, and this week the squad was back together.

The mood is very good, and after the less than satisfying showing against Tipp, the girls came together for extra training the following week.

“They wanted to come in and do a night with us,” Ann revealed. “That is all positive stuff. They are eager to learn, and eager to do well.”

Reports are that the long serving Ann Dalton is a true leader within the group, while young Kelly Ann Doyle (Piltown), who is doing her Leaving Cert this year, Julie Ann Malone (Mullinavat), who is in her first season with the seniors, Edwina Keane (Muckalee), Colette Dormer and Jacqui Frisby are all going particularly well.

“It will be a big occasion in Thurles, but this is what every good player should want to do, to play on the big stage,” the manager insisted.

“Wouldn't every other county love to be in the final? My message to the players is be brave and have a go and don't let the occasion get to you.

“This is a great experience before the championship,” she insisted. “It hard to beat top matches, and playing Galway is as good as it gets right now.”

Currently the manager and her selectors, Paddy Mullally and Conor Phelan are working off a panel of 26, but as players like the Farrells and so on return from injury they will enlarge it for the championship.