*Niamh O’Dea. Photograph: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Clare’s Intermediate ladies football side begin their provincial championship bid on Saturday, as ever Niamh O’Dea will be a pivotal member of their lineup.
By Daragh Small
Niamh O’Dea was one of three players who didn’t make the Lidl NFL Division 2 semi-finals but was still rewarded with a spot on the Team of the League. It was a fine achievement as the Clare full-forward matched the heroics of Wexford’s Sarah Hardin Kenny and Neamh Woods from Tyrone.
Scoring a goal in every game certainly helped the cause of the dual-player. Of combining both camogie and ladies football, the 25 year old said, “I have always done it and there have always been others playing with me every year. I have been lucky with the management we have. They are very facilitating and take it upon themselves to arrange a schedule for the dual players. You are busy every evening but I have known no better because I have always done it. It keeps me busy. I am involved in a bit of everything.
“Between club and county training you are gone pretty much every evening. When I am finished work I go training. You are gone from dawn to dusk every day doing something. I have always done this but management are good they give you the evening off if needed”.
In order to stay fresh, the Kilfenora woman tends to pay a visit to Brian Enright and the Cryotherapy Clinic in Ennis. “You have pool for all of that recovery stuff, there is a cryotherapy chamber in Ennis as well. They are very good for giving us opportunities to stay fresh. There is no pressure on us to train if we are not feeling good. It has worked well so far and that is the main reason we are still doing it.”
O’Dea plays her club football for the Banner in Ennis and camogie with Kilmaley. She used to play soccer too but it was impossible to keep it all going. She teaches PE and Maths in St Caimin’s Community School in Shannon and knows her own body’s limits at this stage.
“I did a masters in sports performance in UL. After I finished my undergrad I went travelling for a couple of months and came back to do the Masters. You are constantly learning little tips about how to improve. You spend your time wisely rather than wasting the time you have for recovery.” O’Dea was a leader for Clare during the league but is well aware they need to up their performance even further this weekend.
Tipperary hammered Limerick 10-22 to 0-4 last time out and James Murrihy’s Clare know what they will be up against when they clash at Seán Treacy Park in the TG4 Munster IFC encounter. “Ourselves and Tipp have always had big rivalries. There has always only been a couple of points between us. It’s tit for tat. They have the big players with Aishling Moloney and Aisling McCarthy. They are big scorers so it is going to be a big challenge this weekend. Tipp broke the 50-point barrier against Limerick which is phenomenal scoring in any game. They laid down a marker early in the year. They were disappointed to be relegated. It is a daunting challenge having that scoreline in their last game and knowing it’s us up against them next. But if we didn’t think we would be able to compete we wouldn’t be playing football. We always believe.
“We have a good panel of youth and experience. We have nothing to fear because we have nothing to lose if they put up that score last time. We can throw caution to the wind and go out and play.”