Aoife glad that Derry camogie has turned corner

By Niall Gartland

AOIFE Ní Chaiside kept on soldiering with Derry camogs during a relative barren spell with the county, so she knows how important it is to ensure they keep on travelling in the right direction.

Derry are braced for this Saturday’s Ulster Senior Championship campaign final against Antrim and victory would be another significant stepping stone for a team that clinched last year’s All-Ireland Intermediate title after a replay over Meath.

The Sleacht Néill star won a number of Ulster titles in the first half of the last decade, but the success stories became fewer and further between as Down and Antrim assumed control at senior provincial level.

And now they’ve started to fulfil their potential again, Ní Chaiside is keen to ensure that they maintain their high standards under manager PJ O’Mullan.

“In the last few years we’ve definitely tried to pull our act together and get things on the upward trajectory rather than the downward.

“We’ve been playing at intermediate level in the All-Ireland series while Down and Antrim have pushed on now and have played at senior level for a few years now.

“They’ve been getting higher standards of games in league and championship so we’ve been lagging behind and that made it especially important to win last year’s championship. We’ve been working hard to build a bit of momentum and team spirit and hopefully we keep that going.”

Of course, Ní Chaiside hasn’t been unaccustomed to success in recent years, winning a historic three-in-a-row with her club Sleacht Néill in the All-Ireland Senior Championship. It’s an incredible story but she’s always put her best foot forward with her county as well and she’s glad that things have improved for the Oak leafers.

“We’d a few tough years where we weren’t reaching finals of any description but you stick at it and you’re always hoping and hoping that things get better.

“I love playing with all the different clubs and as part of different set-ups. To be on the winning side of silverware last year was great and there’s quite a lot of younger girls who have brought brilliant experience into the team from schools level. We have a good mix of youth and experience, and the keenness and energy of the younger girls has been brilliant for the older girls who have been there a few years.”

She’s expecting a seriously tough contest against an Antrim side with some of the best players in the province. They’ll also have a good feel for Derry as their joint-manager is former Oakleaf boss Martin Coulter.

“Martin was our manager two years ago but to be fair he wouldn’t know us all as there’s been a turnover of players. We expect a tough game they’re playing in the senior grade, and that brings with it a level of sharpness and speed and strength. We had a good game against Down in the semi-final and we’re hoping that stands to us as it’s a great opportunity to get our hands on an Ulster title.”

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