*Laura McMahon chases Galway’s Niamh Kilkenny. Photograph: ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo
Clare are ready to make inroads in the Littlewoods Ireland National Camogie League, Clare captain Laura McMahon has outlined.
McMahon continues as captain of the county side for the second year. She is of the view that the squad is much fitter than they have typically been at this stage of the season and is hopeful this will lead to a respectable league run.
“Maybe in the past we’ve used it as a launchpad for championship and we haven’t set our sights fully on it or sometimes we aren’t at the races yet, this year we are fitter than we were for the league last year and years before. There is a new strength and conditioning team of Maeve Conneely and Stephen Cusack, they are pushing us to our limits with our physical fitness and mental capacity to cope when we feel we’re at the edge of what we can give, to dig deeper so hopefully that will come across on Sunday against Offaly”.
A three time senior championship winner with Newmarket-on-Fergus, this year is the first time since getting the county call-up from John Carmody in 2012 that she is the sole Blue in the squad with Carol O’Leary concentrating on county football for 2020. In previous interviews, Laura as listed her sisters Sharon and Roisin as her toughest opponents but for the second year in a row, Roisin has declined the offer to link up with the Clare squad.
“It’s been a massive change. Newmarket have always had a strong contingent within the Clare panel, for different reasons different girls felt they couldn’t commit this year, there’s still four of the Newmarket panel with the Clare Juniors. Travelling to training is a bit lonelier now, there is nobody to carpool with or shorten the journey, the team is so well-bonded that once you’re at training you wouldn’t notice or pick out who is from what club, once we’re with Clare that’s our focus and our clubs become part of the background with Clare to the fore”.
Several members of the Clare panel have tasted success with UL in the Ashbourne Cup but at county level, wins in the championship have been rare. The English and PE teacher at John the Baptist Community School in Hospital gave her take to The Clare Echo on the difficulties in translating college glory to the county set-up.
“At the moment we have four winning Ashbourne captains on the panel, Clare Hehir, Aoife Keane, Eimear Kelly and myself. It’s different in the county as opposed to the college, the college is such a short campaign and you are literally living in each other’s pockets, in UL we had unbelievable fundraising and money pumped into us the whole time, there was never any want for anything whether it was food after training, gear or facilities we had the best of facilities in UL and you are treated equally if not better than the men at times. That would be the real difference between the county and college level, we don’t have at the moment the best facilities available to us or the level of resources”.
Having felt as equal as the Fitzgibbon Cup team in UL, the question is put to Laura do the Clare Camogie panellists not feel they are treated the same as their male counterparts. “Comparison is the thief of all happiness, I don’t want to be comparing ourselves to the men especially when we haven’t had the success that they have had. In UL it was the women’s team that was winning and bringing the trophy back and therefore and that’s why the funding was being pumped into them, if we were to win the League final I’m not sure would that make a massive difference to our sponsorship or with the facilities being made available to us because they aren’t there in Clare at the moment for us. I don’t want to be comparing ourselves to the men,” she answered.
Many players that she has played alongside on the county panel are no longer part of Ger O’Connell’s squad. Their absence will not be used as an excuse by Laura. “It would only become frustrating if they were part of the panel and weren’t showing up to training, if you stated at the beginning of the year you were taking the year out that’s fine as long as there is continuity with people turning up to training and that there is number’s there. The commitment and dedication with the girls has to be top notch and if we’ve set professional standards for ourselves then we can’t really complain. There are times at training when you are frustrated but it might be how you’ve performed or that you’re not getting your touch but the girls rally around you and make it enjoyable, no matter what you come out of training with a smile on your face or a laugh being had whether it was before in the dressing room or after”.