All-conquering Cats are ready to defend crown

They gave their all to win the crown. Now the Kilkenny & District League’s women’s team are determined to hold on to it.

They gave their all to win the crown. Now the Kilkenny & District League’s women’s team are determined to hold on to it.

Winners of the first Leinster inter-league competition, the Cats will be hoping to sparkle under Friday night lights when they begin the defence of their title this month.

The work has already begun for the squad, with managers Fran Egan and Davy Foley holding trials and training sessions in Derdimus.

“We have had a great response already,” joint manager Egan told the ‘People. “Freebooters have joined the women’s league this year, so a number of their players have come in and are hoping to make the panel.”

Kilkenny, who won the title thanks to a 2-1 success over the Leinster League, are raring to go for their opening game against Carlow on December 19 (the game will be played under lights on Carlow IT’s all-weather pitch at 8pm on Friday, December 19).

However, their plans have been hit by some bad knocks.

“We have lost Ann-Marie O’Neill and Laura Dooley with cruciate injuries,” said Egan.

“They are a big loss, but we know there is talent there in the squad to help us get over this. Other players now have to step up to the mark, but we know they are present in the squad.

“Everyone in the set-up is looking forward to the opening match against Carlow,” he added. “Playing on an all-weather pitch won’t be a problem - we have pace and technical skills in our side, so hopefully it will suit us.”

Given their success last season it was no surprise that Egan and Foley got the call to manage the side again this term.

The management team worked the oracle last year, bringing a team together to win the League a women’s inter-league title at the first attempt.

Good enough to win

“People might have thought that we exceeded expectations, but from day one I felt we were good enough to win the competition,” said Egan. “When we started training together I told the players that it would take a very good team to beat us.

“While we drew the first game away to Kildare, the belief in the side grew after their good result against Carlow,” he added. “It added to the momentum, which paid off with the title win.”

Coming out on top last time means that Kilkenny are now the ones to beat.

“We won’t be able to fly under the radar this time!” smiled Egan. “As we are the title holders we’ll probably be seen as a big scalp for others to take, but that will add to the challenge for us.”

The squad will have a good mix of youth and experience, but even the younger members are steeped in inter-league action.

“The younger players have played for Kilkenny in competitions like the Gaynor Cup already,” said Egan. “They are young, but are still well used to the high intensity games and the pressure involved in them.”

Egan has his hands full this season. Together with Alan Franey he is also overlooking the League’s first girls’ inter-league team at under-12 level, a 20-strong panel which trains every Wednesday.

“We got that squad together in an effort to build towards future Gaynor Cups,” he said. “We’re following the example of the boys’ inter-league teams, who come up through the ranks together, so hopefully we’ll have success at various levels in the future.”

For now, his focus is on Carlow in what should be a pre-Christmas cracker.

“It’s all systems go for this first game,” he said. “We can’t wait!”