Dominic McKinley steps down as Slaughtneil camogs prepare for county championship defence
AFTER Slaughtneil completed a mind-boggling third successive All-Ireland senior club title they are already planning to defend their Derry title with draws for the 2019 championship were released.
The last team to hold the title prior to the Emmett's fantastic run is Eoghan Rua Coleraine and will play the holders on the second weekend of September in a quarter-final game.
Team manager Damian McEldowney and coach Mickey Glover confirmed that they also would be staying in charge for another season – although Dominic “Woody” McKinley has stepped down.
“It is a bit mental to be thinking about the season ahead a week after winning the All-Ireland, never mind preparing for the championship,” claimed McEldowney
“But for years with Slaughtneil this time of year was about setting out a plan for the season. For the past couple of years, it is nearly the last thing on our mind. The girls and management are just mentally and physically drained and we need to switch off.”
Last year the All-Ireland final was hit with a couple of postponements and didn't happen until the end of March. With the Derry leagues starting within a couple of weeks, they decided not to train for five or six weeks, then one night a week and around the beginning of July they started building towards championship.
“Aye that worked for us alright, seemed to freshen them up again, but it is difficult to get things right. The girls themselves are very driven and they would be training away themselves making sure they were ready to hit the ground running when we stepped up collective training.”
The Emmett's manager admitted that he saw Loughgiel as the toughest team that they had met over the past couple of seasons.
“They are a serious, serious challenge and we had to get everything right in those Ulster finals to win them. They want to beat us and we know they can beat us if we are not prepared.”
But having a team just 20 miles away playing at the same level is not an advantage for the All-Ireland champions during the season.
“You would think that we could play each other and see where we are pre-county championship. But we can't and they can't play us either because each of us needed to keep the powder dry as more than likely we would be meeting each other in the Ulster final. That is what has happened for the last four years.
“Instead we look to play county teams. We played Dublin twice before the All-Ireland final there. The first day we were beaten by six or seven points and we didn't like it. When we played them the second time, we won by seven or eight points.
“We found out that we needed to do more work. We went and did that work and it was good preparation. The girls are fantastic. They want a challenge and they will rise to it.”
Preliminary round (August 31) : Dungiven v Ballinderry; Quarter-finals (13-15th September 13-15); 1. Prelim winner v Lavey; 2. Slaughtneil v Eoghan Rua; 3. Ballinascreen v Newbridge; 4. Swatragh v Castledawson semi-finals (Sept 21-22): 1 v 3 and 4 v 2; Final (October 13)
Littlewoods Ireland Camogie Leagues Div 1 Relegation play-off
Saturday 2pm Hawkfield-Newbridge; Offaly v Wexford
Wexford are the surprise team in the relegation play-off, considering that they completed three in a row championship titles in 2012 and the same in league the year before.
There were issues around fielding a team in their opening games, but they seem to have overcome that problem while the St Martin's players who featured in Croke Park a fortnight ago against Slaughtneil should return to the fold as well.
A full-strength Wexford would have little problem retaining their Division 1 status, but if they don't have their full complement, Offaly can take advantage.
Littlewoods Ireland Division 2, Group 2
Saturday 2pm in Middletown: Armagh v Kerry
A key game in this group for both teams.
Armagh in all probability will face a relegation play-off if they do not beat Kerry. In their opening round a strong Galway side pulled them apart and they are badly in need of a boost.
Kerry, in their first year up from Division 3, were competitive in their games with Westmeath and Wexford, but failed to win. Defeat for them would also ring the alarm bells for relegation.
Littlewoods Ireland Division 3
Saturday 1pm in Athleague : Roscommon v Clare
Clare have had an unbeaten start to the league and, if they win this postponed fixture, they will join Kildare at the top of the table on four straight wins going into the last game.
Roscommon have picked up two wins and cannot be ignored, but going on the gaps between Clare and their opponents, this should be a Banner win.
All-Ireland Minor A championship
St Bridget's, Musgrave Park Belfast : Antrim v Kilkenny
Birr : Offaly v Waterford
Wexford : Wexford v Tipperary
Gort : Galway v Cork
THE last thing the managements of both Waterford and Antrim minors needed was a draw in last Saturday's All-Ireland schools' finals between Cross and Passion Ballycastle and St Angela's Waterford.
Antrim were hoping that the full focus of their team would be on the visit of Kilkenny to Belfast but the draw and now the replay next Saturday (23rd) means that many of the young Saffrons have the distraction of the replay and, most likely, a minor match with Waterford the following day.
The Saffrons' opening fixture was a great success; their first outing in the A grade and a win over Offaly in Birr with the whole team gelling from the start.
Kilkenny had not got a match that first weekend, but they had a narrow enough win over Waterford last Sunday (0-11 to 1-5) 24 hours after many of the Déise youngsters played against Cross and Passion.
The three points' gap should tell Antrim that they have a good chance of upsetting Kilkenny in Musgrave Park. The home venue and the opening victory mean that they have a lot going for them.
However they have to produce a top drawer performance and even then nothing would be guaranteed. But they have as good a chance as they will get.
In the other group game, Waterford should beat Offaly, while in Section 2, Tipperary should make it three wins from three starts at home to Wexford.
Galway are still an unknown quantity as they have not played yet, while Cork have had just the one outing, a three points' loss to Tipp. A second lost today and they would be unlikely to qualify for the semi-finals.
Results to date:
Round 1 : Waterford 1-8 Clare 2-9, Dublin 2-14 Wexford 0-11, Tipperary 0-13 Cork 1-7, Offaly 1-8 Antrim 1-16
Round 2 : Clare 3-13 Offaly 0-9, Kilkenny 0-11 Waterford 1-5, Tipperary 3-14 Dublin 2-9
All-Ireland Minor B championship
Meath : Meath v Laois
Limerick IT : Limerick v Roscommon
Derry : Derry v Armagh
Castletowngeoghan : Westmeath v Down
DERRY got off to a great start in their group by rescuing a draw with Westmeath in Swatragh. They have a second home game against an Armagh team that came back from the dead to take the points away to Down in the opening round.
Pre-competition, Derry and Westmeath looked to be the teams to beat given their respective performances in the past two seasons at under 16 level.
While the Oak Leaf performed well, there was an over-reliance on Róisín Gallagher for scores and Armagh will know about the Bellaghy centre-forward.
Derry and Armagh had a great battle in last year's Ulster under 16 final in Swatragh and there won't be a lot between them at the end today – but Derry should win.
In the other game in the section, it will be a surprise if Down can go to Raharney and win. They were disappointing in their opening fixture and if the management get an improved performance, they will be happy enough although victory would very much be a bonus.
In the other section, Meath may be top of the table at the minute with two wins from two outings – but those were against the two weakest teams.
I would expect Meath to put up a decent show against Laois, but I still predict an away win while Limerick will be far too strong for Roscommon.
Results to date
Round 1 : Kildare 0-2 Limerick 2-15, Roscommon 3-4 Meath 2-17, Carlow 2-8 Westmeath 2-14, Down 2-6 Armagh 2-7
Round 2 : Laois 4-14 Roscommon 1-4, Meath 0-9 Kildare 2-2, Derry 3-6 Westmeath 2-9
All-Ireland Minor C championship
Saturday 2pm : Páirc Cormac, Eglish : Tyrone v Wicklow
TYRONE are in a good position to qualify for the final of this competition – as long as they defeat Wicklow in Eglish this afternoon.
The result against Kerry was a real boost to the O'Neill county. It was hard fought and asked the team leaders to stand up and be counted during the second half. That happened.
It would look as if the run of St Patrick's Academy to an All-Ireland schools' final earlier in the month has left more than half the team in good shape.
Reagan Fay directed operations from midfield with Emma Donnelly strong in defence and young Lara Devlin picking off a couple of nice scores. Megan Clarke and Caitlin Gallagher were others to step up to the mark against the kingdom particularly during the second half when the Munster side began to tire.
Wicklow have lost both their games to date, conceding four goals in each. They won't be an easy touch, but home venue and the momentum gained with last week's win should see Tyrone through.
Results to date
Round 1 : Kerry 4-9 Wicklow 2-7,
Round 2 : Wicklow 1-5 Mayo 4-7, Kerry 0-11 Tyrone 2-9