Asessing the results of Sunday’s All-Ireland Intermediate Camogie Finalists over the course of the year, there’s no doubt that the two best teams in the country are now just a win away from the senior grade.
Waterford have reached this year’s Final having played 11 games between National League, Munster and All-Ireland Championships.
Sean Fleming’s side have a very impressive record going into Sunday’s showpiece, having won 10 of their 11 games, losing only once – to Clare in the Munster Championship preliminart round.
Kildare also head into the Final having played 11 times in 2015, winning eight of their 11 outings, having lost to Kilkenny by 3-18 to 1-8 in the Leinster semi-final and, intriguingly, twice to the Deise.
They first lost to Waterford in the League semi-final by 1-15 to 1-7 and then went down by 4-11 to 1-10 in the league secton of the Championship. But Sunday is a different type of game in an altogether different venue. It’s Croke Park. It’s All-Ireland Final day, and the stakes cannot be higher.
Both emerged from a difficult grop which contained three of the teams that contested the Division Two League semi-finals, including Kilkenny, who lost last year’s All-Ireland Final to Limerick. And both go into this decider on tbe back of hard fought semi-final victories.
Waterford came from nine points down very early in the second half against Meath, as goals from Shona Curran, Aisling Power and Beth Carton saw them spectacularly prevail by 3-10 to 3-9.
Kildare’s win over Cork at Nowlan Park proved equally hard fought as the Lilywhites emerged as 1-12 to 0-11 victors, with Emer Reilly’s goal just before the break establishing a four-point lead that they were never to relinquish thereafter.
Kildare ought to start with Róisín O’Connell between the posts, with Clodagh Flanagan, Carol Nolan and Fiona Trant directly in front of her.
The half-back line could well consist of Angela Lyons, Regina Gorman and Clodagh Farrell, but don’t be too surprised if Regina Gorman ends up in the half-forward line.
“I lár na páirce’ could see Caroline Forde and Hannah McDonnell link up while the half-forward line could see Emer Reilly (who may switch with Caroline Forde), Siobhan Hurley and Louise Keatley (who could swap with Regina Gorman).
The inside-forward line is likely to feature Susie O’Connell, Noelle Early (who may be redeployed at centrefield) and Melissa Lyons.
How Waterford will line up on Sunday next shall be of particular interest. There is often a rule of thought that when a side wins the last game that you give that team a vote of confidence for the next game. But does that mean the team that started against Meath, or, perhaps likelier, the team that was on the Nowlan Park sod at the end of a remarkable second half?
It is not likely to be forgotten by anyone in the Deise dressing room that they trailed by eight points against Meath at the intrerval, befire calling on two big guns who’d been away for a spell duyring the summer: Shona Curran and Valerie O’Brien.
They proved game changers that afternoon and one suspects Sean Fleming will field the team best equipped to handle the big occasion, something neither Shona nor Valerie are strangers to.
So one suspcects that Deirdre Brennan will start in goal with Kate McMahon, Claire Whyte and Vikki Falconer, who captained WIT to Ashbourne Cup victory this year, forming the full-back line.
But from here out, things may get really interesting. It’s expected that Charlotte Raher will start in the number five shirt with Jennie Simpson and talisman Trish Jackman fighting it out for the number six shirt while Iona Heffernan and Jenny McCarthy contesting the remaining wing back berth.
One from Jackman and Simpson is, depending on selection of course, most likey to take a place in midfield alongside Lorraine Bray. However, another option available to the Deise selectors may be to play Trish Jackman at centre-back with Jennie Simpson on the wing and Iona Heffernan in midfield – we shall see.
In attack, the talented Beth Carton will once again wear the number 12 shirt, lining out in a venue worthy of her immense gifts.
Against Meath, Nicola Morrissey, Niamh Rockett and Beth Carton formed the half-forward line while Aisling Power, captain Catriona McGlone and Dawn Power formed the full-forward line. But recall the impact made by Shona Curran and Valerie O’Brien from the bench in Nowlan Park.
One suspects both will start, which will see, again one suspects, Niamh Rockett and Catriona McGlone taking up the corner-forward berths respectively. It’s a good problem for Sean Fleming, Phil Ryan and Cbris Dempsey and one suspects they’ve been mulling considerablty over personell and where best to deploy them in equal measure.
Having beaten Kildare twice, there’s natural cause for optimism, but Waterford will not underestimate their opponents in any way whatsoever.
The Deise will know that in Siobhan Hurley, Eimer Reilly and Susie O’Carroll, the Leinster challangers possess three very dangerous forwards. Keep tabs on all three and they’ll be halfway up the steps of the Hogan Stand just after 3pm on Sunday next.
And given that Waterford have only conceded a goal per game on average this year, while scoring an average of two at the opposite end, they clearly stand a fine chance of ending the season on a historic note.
One win from senior camogie, Waterford have worked hard for several years to get themselves into this position – this is no overnight development, not by any means. This is a huge opportunity to take the code to a new level and one suspects, albeit not without difficulty, that they can do just that. Waterford to win.