McGrath bounces back from early disappointment with Tipp tour de force

February 26, 2024

Eimear McGrath of Tipperary and Dervla Higgins of Galway ©INPHO/James Lawlor

by Daragh Ó Conchúir

The day did not begin well for Eimear McGrath but it got a whole lot better, after she ran riot at The Ragg to provide all bar three points of Tipperary’s tally, as Denis Kelly’s side defeated champions Galway for the second season in a row in Division 1A’s Very National Camogie League, by 3-10 to 1-13.

The home team played most of the second half with 14 players after Róisín Howard was sent off for a second yellow card offence but having plundered 2-4 in the first half, McGrath’s third goal was crucial and Siobhán Gardiner’s injury time major came too late for Galway.

McGrath arrived at The Ragg directly from the All-Ireland senior A Corn na Sceilge post-primary schools’ final, having watched the Ursuline Thurles squad she is a selector and coach of, lose to Loreto Kilkenny.

Entrusted with the responsibility of leading the attack in the absence of the totemic Cáit Devane, who is getting married next month, the Drom-Inch star was on fire.

“In fairness, a lot of the hard work is done out the field,” said the Very player of the match. “I was on the end of them to finish them. They’re going in today but hopefully it stays going. Hopefully they don’t dry up!

“We were very disappointed with our performance last week (in the loss to Waterford). We didn’t perform at all and we just wanted to come out today and rectify some of them wrongs from last week.

“We dominated the start of the match. Galway got their purple patch but that’s to be expected. Thankfully we were able to keep the lead throughout and it was enough in the finish.

“Róisín was sent off at the start of the second half and we dealt well enough with that. We were able to reset fairly lively but by the end of it, the legs got tired. It’s early in the year yet. The fitness has a bit to go yet but thankfully we were able to hold on.

“We’re where we want to be again. We’re still waiting on a few bodies to come back. They’ll have to earn their place back in the team now as well. There’s competition for places and a win on the board as well.”

Kelly was very pleased with the manner in which his players responded to last week’s loss to Waterford and then to Howard’s dismissal. And with Cork the only team with full points, it is all to play for when the action resumes the weekend after next.

“We felt that bit of a buzz during the week in training,” said Kelly. “We gave them a fair bit of stick after last weekend but we got a great response and we had a few extra bodies on the field that helped us as well.

“Going to 14 so early in the second half, a lesser team would have fold but the girls dug in well, fought it out and we were thrilled to get the win.

“Róisín is a wholehearted player. She goes at everything 100%. There was no maliciousness in her tackle. We felt it was a bit of shoulder to shoulder but the ref had his own ideas on it. She got the line early, we restructured and got the few vital scores to keep the scoreboard ticking over.”

“Eimear is only coming from the Ursuline game, she was selector on that team, so disappointment there but she made up for it. Cáit Devane is missing at the minute, she’s getting married in a couple of weeks’ time and we wish her all the best, so we need someone else to step into that mantle and today Eimear did the business for us.”

The presence of long-time attacking contributor Nicole Walsh in goals has added a new dimension to the Tipp play. Walsh was absent for a period after giving birth to her first child but her high skill level was notable on Saturday.

“We have Nicole Walsh in goals – that’s a big change for her, she’s used to operating up front. She’s really comfortable on the ball. She’s able to take the ball back and find the short one as well and we’re delighted with the way she went.

“That gives us the opportunity to play a bit of ball. Sometimes we have gone too direct but with the woman down, we were forced into using the ball that bit better and I think that worked well for us.

“Twelve months ago we brought serious workrate to the game and we got our victory (against Galway) so we said we had to bring our workrate, our turnovers and support runs all up and the girls did that. But you get nothing this time of year and we have to build on that again.”

Galway manager, Cathal Murray also pointed to the calendar for context. Carrie Dolan was top scorer with eight points but defensively, the Maroons were not at their best.

While preferring to win, Murray, who has overseen the Maroons to overall success in the competition for the last two seasons and three times in all, to go with two All-Irelands, was happy with much of what he saw.

“We’re disappointed all right but we’re not going to get carried away about it either,” declared the Sarsfields man. “It’s the 24th of February, it’s only our second game but certainly there will be some things we’ll be disappointed with. Overall, I think we played well, just probably weren’t clinical enough, certainly didn’t take enough of our chances but happy we created them at the same time.

“Anytime you give away three goals like we did today, you’re not going to win a game. Certainly not against Tipperary and certainly not in The Ragg but a lot of what we did was good. We have a lot to improve on too in a few areas but the League for us is about finding players and we got some really good performances again this year, which is pleasing.

“We’ve an awful lot of young talent and it’s a matter of blending them with the older, more experienced people. We’re working really hard as a group. After that we’ve plenty to improve on and plenty to work on.

“You have to give kudos to Tipperary. They were really good today, really physical as they always are and took their chances clinically so fair play to them.

“The League is wide open. The next round of matches are really important now so the next two weeks, we’ll get ready for them.”

Cork are on top of the table as they repeated their All-Ireland final triumph over Waterford but new Déise manager Jerry Wallace, who was plotting against his native county and many of the players he stewarded to four All-Ireland minor titles, will have been pleased with the competitiveness of his charges in a 1-6 to 0-6 loss at SETU Arena.

A first-half Orlaith Cahalane goal was the key score in a game made extremely difficult by the wind, and during which defences held the upper hand.

Kilkenny registered their first victory to keep their League hopes alive as they defeated Clare by 1-19 to 1-9 at UPMC Nowlan Park.

A goal from Aoife Doyle and some excellent point scoring by Steffi Fitzgerald, Katie Nolan and Aoife Prendergast pulled the Stripeywomen clear after Lorna McNamara had given Clare an early lead and also given them hope by goaling from a penalty.

John Carmody’s side were outgunned however and as the only team without a win, must now find a victory somewhere to avoid relegation.

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