The 2018 Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship kicks off this weekend as the race to wrestle the O’Duffy Cup away from Leeside begins with five fixtures around the country on Saturday evening.
Given that most counties finished their league campaigns at the start of March due to the Camogie Association’s desire to play the final as a curtain raiser to hurling’s equivalent, then it’s difficult to point to any real form line as such. Provincial competitions, essentially glorified tournaments, are treated differently by every county and again offer very little insight into how the next twelve weeks of competition will play out.
But every journey starts with a single step so let’s take a stab at calling this weekend’s opening series.
Galway v Clare | Pearse Stadium
Galway are on their third manager since the last time they played an opening round game in 2017. Despite this they are showing some form with a comprehensive win in the senior inter-provincial competition last month, hammering Leinster in the final.
Clare had a rollercoaster league, beating neighbours Limerick but registering just 1-3 against Kilkenny. A recent Munster championship outing against Cork ended in a severe beating and it’s hard to see any different in Salthill on Saturday evening.
Prediction: Galway by 9
Limerick v Kilkenny | Bruff
Managerial upheaval is the theme of group 1 with Limerick under new management following the departure of John O’Grady in March. The players will feel under pressure to deliver after this no doubt but an encouraging league was followed by a big defeat to Tipperary in Munster.
Kilkenny are operating under a shroud of silence with interview requests being turned down and management representing players at awards ceremonies. Ann Downeys troops mean business. The recent league champions added the Leinster crown to their cabinet last month and are one of the favourites to win this championship outright.
Interestingly Limerick have chosen to bring this game to Bruff which is a good bit tighter than the Gaelic Grounds where they shipped a big score in a defeat to Offaly at this stage last year.
Kilkenny have traditionally been vulnerable in the early stages of the championship and Limerick had four points to spare in this fixture in this years league but have consistently failed to bring Springs form to Summer in the past few seasons.
Prediction: Kilkenny by 7
Cork v Wexford | Pairc Ui Rinn
Cork are the epitome of a championship team. Disregard any previous form. They will be there or thereabouts come the business end of proceedings. Paudie Murray never likes to lose but he won’t lose any sleep over their league final loss to Kilkenny.
Wexford had a decent league missing out narrowly on a semi-final place and running Cork to two points early in the competition. Last week they took a serious beating from Limerick in a challenge match and while these are no indicator of form, it happened very close to championship to be completely disregarded.
Prediction: Cork by 8
Dublin v Offaly | Parnell Park
This is my call to be game of the weekend. Dublin under David Herrity are under a lot of pressure to prove that last years semi-final appearance wasn’t a flash in the pan while Offaly under new manager Mike Wall are hoping to build on an encouraging Leinster campaign which saw them defeat this weekends opponents before losing narrowly to Kilkenny in the final.
Dublin rarely concede a big score, setting up on occasion with a sweeper but always with a deep, defensive half forward line. Offaly on the other hand are known for putting up big scores but all too inconsistently.
The big question is whether the Faithful firepower of Flannery, Watkins and Morkan can find enough space to pick the defensive lock of Dublin in a unique clash of two Kilkenny managers.
Prediction: Offaly by 3
Tipperary v Meath | The Ragg
The worst home ground in the country welcomes the team with the worst league record this weekend as Tipperary host Meath. The Ragg, known for its uneven surface and suffocating dressing rooms is a hostile place for visiting teams and having posted 0-1 and 0-2 in two of their league games, there won’t be too many in the Meath camp looking forward to this weekends clash.
The ascent to senior has come a year too late for John Dolans side. Runaway winners of the division two league in 2016 they misfired in the championship before eventually being promoted beating Cork in the 2017 intermediate final.
Promotion in 2016 might have given them the momentum needed to survive but the year has stuttered for the Royals.
Tipperary, under new manager Bill Mullaney, are the team every outside coach would love to get hold of. Laden with talent they have consistently failed to deliver in championship. Devestating in hammering Limerick in Munster this year they followed up by hardly raising a gallop in the final in Cork. Long term we will have to wait and see what this talented Tipp team can deliver but this weekends tie is in no doubt.
Prediction: Tipp by 15 plus
Columnist with GAAWrap and current Éire Óg Ennis Senior Hurling coach.