*Ann Marie McGann. Photograph: Burren Eye Photography

ANN-MARIE McGann was a selector with the junior side when differing managements were in charge of the county’s two adult sides prior to 2022, since then she has been ever-present on the sidelines with both outfits in their pursuit of glory.

Clare camogie selector Ann-Marie McGann has devoted many seasons to promoting the game at schools, club and county levels.

“We came in in 2016 and I suppose we have come full circle now. We started off in Ballyline with the bare minimum of what we could get whether that was players, mentors, or facilities. We had a value on those club girls who might never see a senior jersey or may never have got a chance to wear a county jersey. That’s the value in this junior team, that it’s available to really good club players who can put their hand up and eventually push on to the senior. The focus in starting it up is that we value really good club players who weren’t making the senior squad but could make an impact at junior level and look where we are now”, the St. Flannan’s College teacher told the Clare Echo.

A former goalkeeper with St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield, she said that her involvement at post-primary level has been an asset to her time in management. “There has been success in schools camogie. There had been a gap for a few years but between St. Flannan’s, the Coláiste and Tulla who had an outstanding couple of years and a lot of those girls have made their way onto starting club teams and onto Clare panels at under 16 and minor and now on the junior team while some have made their way onto the senior team as well.

“There is an importance to look at club but also at schools camogie where the girls are playing with their friends and that has an impact in them keeping up the game when they leave school. It impacts on a county level and anyone that has some success at schools level will stay involved for a long time because they see the value in it and playing with their friends. If we could get more success at that level be it at A, B or C grades, we could see great success at county level”.

Ann-Marie agrees that having both senior and junior teams training together under the same management has helped. “We have an overview of players who can push on to senior level. Some have pushed on this year and last year and a few of these will push on in a year or two, That’s the real basis of having a joint management team, that we can see those players whereas before you were pulling girls between senior and junior. If they make the step up we will decide that as a management team. You can see girls that are solely junior and are focusing on junior and girls that might have a chance of playing senior get a bit of game time in the league and that has been a huge success for the junior team this year”.

The experienced mentor felt that Clare “might have been in Croke Park a little bit earlier. In 2020 we got pulled out and we were tipped to be one of the top teams that year and it was very disappointing to be pulled out of it. Two or three very hard years have gone into this junior panel. We have seen a great panel of girls come together and it’s for the good of Clare camogie that we are in Croke Park on Sunday. The panel can really do well if we stay focussed over the next week”.

McGann continued, “Tipperary got a bit of a shock at the weekend not getting over Waterford in the senior semi-final. It goes to show what can happen on a day. It comes down to on the day. There are a lot of nerves to take into account. These girls have never played in as big a stage as Croke Park and that goes for Tipperary as well. We have a tough test against Armagh under our belts and hopefully that will stand to us. Being four points down in that game we were looking at the bench to see what we were going to bring on and we brought on some fantastic players and they gave us fresh legs. We spoke all year about the importance of the panel. Unfortunately we can’t play everyone, we can only play twenty but everyone has played a huge part in getting us to Croke Park”.

She paid special tribute to former Junior captain, Kate O’Gorman. The Kilkishen player is currently in Australia and is not part of their squad for Sunday’s final. “She has been there from the very start and it’s unfortunate that she is missing the occasion. She has been a great backbone to this team over the years and has captained the team. This will be for those players who started out the journey in 2016. If we get over the line on Sunday this will be for them as well”.

She believes that “a number of these girls will push on to be senior players in the next year or two and build up that senior panel. Getting to an All-Ireland final really puts a good gloss on Clare camogie. The focus is on this junior team. We don’t get many days in Croke Park so hopefully we will have a big following. It’s a great day out. We have had over 140 sessions with this squad already this year and to win on Sunday would see us up to intermediate which would be a huge help going forward”.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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