By Niall Gartland
IT’S a testament to the Granemore camogs that they’re readying themselves for an All-Ireland Junior ‘A’ Championship semi-final clash against Wicklow side Knockamanna this Saturday.
Take in the first instance their gruelling run of matches to this point.
Following their win over familiar foes Ballymacnab in the Armagh final, they claimed exceptionally tight victories over Loughgiel, Newbridge and Crosserlough to claim provincial honours, in doing so making amends for last year’s Ulster Junior final defeat to Brídíní Óga.
Moreover they’re also a strong dual club with many of their players bagging Armagh Ladies Intermediate Championship medals this season.
They’re a committed bunch of players to be sure and manager Connor Devlin says they’re proving to the outside world that they’re a force to be reckoned with.
“Winter camogie isn’t for the faint hearted. Pitches are heavy and you have to be able to win your own ball. Something we have worked on over the last three seasons with the introduction of S&C and targeted coaching. Our game against Loughgiel in Ulster showed the character and spirit of the group. Six down at half time away from home, they had every excuse to be beat but never took them. Like they have done in the past, they found a way.
“That result proved to be a spring board for the rest of the Ulster campaign. To an extent this group has been written off, they were never meant to get out of Armagh this year. Hopefully now they will get the recognition they deserve.”
While winning Armagh titles across both codes was an immense accomplishment Devlin says it wasn’t convenient and feared for the future of the dual player.
“We had 12 dual players as part of the Intermediate Football championship winning team, an incredible achievement. This had to be carefully managed in regards to load. At times non dual players did extra work in sessions whilst dual players focused more on recovery. It was a situation I feel we navigated quite well but couldn’t have happened without collaboration. Something I think needs to happen at fixtures committees, otherwise it will be the death of the dual player and force players to make a choice that should never have to be made.”
Standing in their way of a place in the All-Ireland final is Wicklow side Knockananna, who narrowly lost last year’s decider to Antrim side Brídíní Óga. Granemore will be quietly confident, however, and the return of Ciara Hill from a cruciate injury has been a major plus point. That said her cousin Lucy Doyle is sidelined with the same injury but the hope is that they’ll be back next year.
Commenting on the challenge this weekend, Devlin said: “Knockananna are a quality side with excellent forwards. They have won three Leinsters and are no strangers to this competition so will be full of confidence coming into this weekend. We know we will be going in as underdogs but we are looking forward to the contest. This is new territory for the club and there is a real buzz in the community.”