BIG GUNS FACE OFF
Donard-The Glen and Knockananna go head to head
THE two heavyweights of Wicklow camogie in recent years have unquestionably been the West Wicklow sides Donard-The Glen and Knockananna.
The two are used to facing off on the biggest day in the Wicklow club camogie calendar and have produced some titanic tussles over the years and it should be no different when the sliotar is thrown in on the Baltinglass sod this Saturday at 4pm.
Knockananna are the defending champions and have a number of dual players who have already tasted county football success this year but the women of Donard will be gunning to knock them off their pedestal.
We caught up with the two respective managers; Knockananna’s Brian Byrne and Donard head man Caiman Kiely as well as the two team captains; Áine O’Keefe of Knockananna and her Donard counterpart Emer Miley to get their thoughts ahead of the final.
Brian Byrne – Knockananna Manager:
This has been my first year over the team and I have to say the girls have been a pleasure to train and we’re all hugely exited and looking forward to the showdown on Saturday with Donard. It will be my first county final experience of Wicklow camogie but from the history of finals between the two sides I’m sure it’ll be a cracking game with two familiar foes going all out for the win.
Donard have a very good team with a good mix of younger and more experienced players and we’re well aware of the magnitude of the challenge they’ll bring. They play with a lot of physicality but also have very skilful hurlers across the pitch so we’ll have to be at a very best to turn them over.
Having said that though I think that it’s important that most of our emphasis is on our own game and how we prepare and perform on the day.
If we play to our capability it will take a very good team to stop the girls so everyone just has to concentrate on winning their own individual battles and then bring that together and collectively work for each other as a team.
The application of the girls has been first class all year. We have a lot of dual players or players who would have been doing exams but to a woman their commitment has been exceptional. They’re a hugely driven and ambitious bunch so I have to say as a manager they’ve been a dream to train.
Although it might not have been reflected in the score line we had tough battles against Carnew and Ballinacor to get in this position but this is where we’ve aimed to be all year so I suppose there’s a huge anticipation and probably a slight nervousness in the camp ahead of the match. Everyone just wants Saturday to come around and get stuck in and play.
We have no injuries concerns as of now so fingers crossed that continues and I think we’re well prepared for having a right crack on Saturday. If we play to our strengths we have a great chance and with a bit of luck can get over the winning line.
Áine O’Keefe – Knockananna Captain:
As a player this is where you want to be and we’re all looking forward to the final. We’ve been playing well this year but having said that we know we’ll have to up our performance and play our best match of the year if we’re to beat Donard on Saturday.
We’re well aware that they’re a very good team and that they will be going out extra hard to beat us on Saturday because we’re the defending champions. I’ve played in some really tough, close games against them and there’s never much to separate the teams so I’m sure Saturday will be no different.
Training has been going well and there’s a great team spirit within the squad which is a credit to Brian. A lot of us were also involved in winning the county football championships with Tinahely so I think that will give those involved an extra hunger to go out and win the camogie champion- ship as well. As a team we’re all striving for the same goal to win the championship so absolutely nothing will be left on the pitch on Saturday.
We’ve played a couple of tough matches to get here and also had a few practice matches against Wexford side’s so hopefully we’ll be well battle hardened ahead of the game on Saturday.
I think if we play as well as we can we’re well capable of winning so hopefully a big crowd will turn up on Saturday and help us bring the cup back to Knockanna.
Caiman Kiely – Donard-The Glen Manager:
Firstly I have to say that it’s been a hugely enjoyable first year in the job for me and I think that throughout the year we’ve really grown and improved as a team.
The girls have been a joy to train and everyone has really put their shoulder to the wheel so I certainly can’t fault anyone involved for attitude, commitment or desire. Whether the sun was splitting the stones or the rain and hail was pelting down we’ve trained and played with 100% commitment all year so hopefully that will stand us in good stead come Saturday.
We know that Knockanna will pose a huge obstacle for us to get over on Saturday.
They’re county champions for a reason and have some very talented camogie players. We played them in the group stage earlier in the year and although we lost by a couple of points I think there were encouraging signs for us that day. We were missing a few players ourselves for that match but I think we learned a lot from that outing and have been on an upward curve since then.
Although I wasn’t over the team last year I understand how disappointed they were to lose in the final last year and what it would mean to them to get the win on Sat- urday. I suppose there probably is a factor of revenge seeing that it’s the same opponents. This is where we’ve been aiming to be all year.
At the same time though have to go out and play our normal game and can’t let emotion get the better of us. I think that we have a lot of different weapons across the pitch and have the skill and determination to come out the right side of the result.
It will take a monumental effort from absolutely everyone but I’m confident that if we perform to our capability that we’ll get the win and bring the cup back to Donard.
It would be brilliant if a big crowd made the trip to Baltinglass on Saturday to cheer on the girls. They really deserve all the support they can get and that bit of extra support can make a huge difference at the end of the day.
Emer Miley – Donard-The Glen Captain
On behalf of the team I can say that everyone involved absolutely can’t wait for the final. After the hurt of losing at the same stage last year this is where we aimed to be, to get a shot to turn the result around and get the win this year.
We know it will be a massive challenge as Knockanna are obviously a top class team but we have a lot of self-belief in our own game and are a really close knit bunch so hopefully that will come through on Saturday.
We played them in the group stage of the championship earlier on in the year and although we came out on the wrong side of the result by a couple of points I think we took a lot from that match as a team. I suppose it helped us highlight a few things we needed to work on but also showed where we can get some joy out of Knockanna. Since then we have really pushed on and improved.
There will be nothing easy about the match Saturday though and every ball will be hard won so we have to be ready to front up and go into battle.
There is never much between the two sides and I’m sure this final will be no different so we just have to do everything in our power to get the win.
I’m fully confident that if we turn up and play our A game we can get the win and bring the cup back to Donard but we’ll have to do our talking on the pitch and put in a huge 60 minutes plus in Baltinglass on Saturday.
Donard-The Glen Senior camogie captain Emer Miley.
Knockananna celebrate last year’s win.