Hurling and camogie

Derry camogie star Janet McGuckin: we can turn up the heat on Cork

Séamas McAleenan


Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Intermediate Championship Group 2: Saturday July 7 at 5pm in Swatragh: Derry v Cork

DESPITE a successful under-age career with Derry Janet McGuckin came late to county camogie but the Swatragh player believes that she was better prepared for the county scene arriving to it in her mid 20's instead of her late teens.

The current team captain won provincial Under 16 and minor championship medals as she came through alongside players who had collected Ulster medals at all levels in schools’ competitions.

“Derry had good under-age teams back then, full of players who were well known outside the county, players like Katie McAuley.

“And the county won five or six Ulster titles in a row. So there were plenty of top players coming through to senior level around that time.”

“I don’t think I had the motivation to do the hard work to become a senior county player at that time. I was content enough playing and winning with Swatragh.”

At the time Swatragh was one of the top clubs, collecting county titles on a very regular basis and they had reached the 2000 All-Ireland club final where they lost to Na Piarsaigh of Galway who were winning the middle title of their five in seven seasons.

“As a youngster, you grew up with this club success all around you and you then wanted to be on that team,” says the Daycare worker based in Cookstown Adult Centre.

“My early years out of under-age camogie were all about getting Swatragh back to that level and going one better.”

Unfortunately the Davitt’s never made it back to their Millennium year high – but Janet did help them collect three county titles 2002, 2003 and 2005.

“Yes, great memories – in hindsight. At the time though we probably didn’t appreciate them as much as we should have because we were really going for Ulster and more.

“But we haven’t won a county title since and all the great younger players we have in Swatragh at the moment haven’t those memories. So yes, I feel lucky to have been part of those winning teams.”

Janet though feels that as a more experienced club player she was more ready to take on the county challenge when it came her way.

“The priority was to succeed with the club back then. When I came into the county set up about seven years ago, I think that I wanted much more from camogie. I began to look after myself better, eat properly, learned how to better focus for matches, in general become the best I could be.

“Before that I took a lot for granted. But as an older player, you want the second half of your playing career to be as productive as possible.”

As first Eoghan Rua, Coleraine and latterly close neighbours Slaughtneil equalled and surpassed Swatragh’s achievements at Ulster club level, Janet has been struck by the commitment levels of those club players.

“On the one hand we would be envious of say Slaughtneil over the past two years, but we would also admire what they have done to get to that level and win back to back All-Irelands, no fluke there.

“Of course we have supported them and we are now looking to harness that drive they have so that we can achieve success at county level.”

Derry’s year has not brought any medals so far, but Janet argues that it was always the new manager’s (John O’Dwyer) plan to try different things in the league and look towards getting the best from the team in mid-summer.

“I suppose Slaughtneil taking longer than expected to win the club title and then a bad injury to Karen (Kielt, cruciate), I suppose those things forced change on the team. But John wanted to do that anyway.”

Part of the change saw Janet move to a defensive role, something she hadn’t much experienced at county level.

“I have been playing centre-half back with Swatragh for the past couple of years and John was with Ballinascreen. So he probably wanted to look at me in defence for county.”

Derry drew with a rejuvenated Down in the opening round of the championship three weeks ago and have, on paper anyway, a really tough game in Swatragh against a Cork side in search of back-to-back league and championship doubles.

“It is a big game – but it is in Swatragh and that gives us a chance. Derry people love to come to watch camogie in Swatragh and I hope there is a big crowd there for us. We have been training well recently and I think we can really turn up the heat on Cork.”

Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Championship Group 2

Saturday July 7th, 5pm

Trim: Meath v Dublin

Birr: Offaly v Wexford

The Ragg: Tipperary v Cork

Meath v Dublin

Dublin were disappointing in their last game against Cork. As beaten semi-finalists last year, they were expected to push on. But a five points’ win over Offaly and then an 18 points’ defeat to the champions hardly suggests much forward movement.

However it is still very unlikely that they will slip up to Meath, who scored just nine points in each of their two games to date.

Verdict: Dublin

Offaly v Wexford

Offaly have got to be happy enough with their two games to date, a five points’ defeat to Dublin and then a comfortable win over Meath.

However this is a key home game. If they get anything out of it, they will enter the last two games – against the two teams sitting top of the Division – with something to play for.

Wexford struggled against both Cork and Tipperary and they must win their final three games to make the knock-out stages

Verdict: Wexford

Tipperary v Cork

The champions really impressed in their two outings to date and they will be up for this game that will ultimately decide an automatic semi-final spot.

Tipperary were lucky to steal a win in their last game with Wexford, needing a last minute goal to do so. They seem a little off the pace this year, but they still carry a threat.

Verdict: Cork

Group 2 results to date

June 9: Cork 0-19 Wexford 0-7, Dublin 3-14 Offaly 3-9, Tipperary 6-14 Meath 0-9

June 23: Offaly 3-11 Meath 0-9, Wexford 2-8 Tipperary 1-14, Cork 4-15 Dublin 2-3

Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Intermediate Championship Group 1

Saturday 7 at 5pm: Swatragh: Derry v Cork; Mountmellick: Laois v Carlow

Derry v Cork

Derry produced a decent response to their defeat to Down in the Ulster final the first weekend of June when the sides met once more in Portaferry in the opening fixture of the league.

The game finished in a 1-15 to 0-18 draw and the Oak Leaf girls had genuine claims that a late goal should have counted to give them both points.

Although they probably had underestimated Down ahead of the Ulster final, they raised their game significantly for the league encounter. But both games have probably been the kick up the back-side the team needed.

They had excuses for their poor league run, and championship must deliver something.

Verdict: Anything other than a Cork win will be a surprise

Laois v Carlow

Carlow struggled in their opening fixture with Down a fortnight ago, scoring 10 of their 12 points from frees afforded them by a fairly lenient referee.

At no stage of the contest did they look like beating the visitors, the only team they had beaten this season so far, away back in February.

Laois started the league with three straight wins, including a surprise one in Owenbeg against Derry. But they then lost the last three.

They have only played one game to date and were well beaten by holders and competition favourites Cork a fortnight ago.

There is not a lot between the two teams at present and the venue might prove an advantage.

Verdict: a narrow enough win for Laois

Group 1 results to date

June 16: Cork 5-18 Carlow 0-6, Down 0-18 Derry 1-15

June 23: Carlow 0-14 Down 2-13, Cork 3-23 Laois 0-6

Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Intermediate Championship Group 2: Saturday July 7

The Ragg, 3pm: Tipperary v Antrim

5pm: Hawkfield-Newbridge: Kildare v Galway

5pm Kinnegad: Westmeath v Kilkenny

Tipperary v Antrim

Antrim’s concession of a late free, and goal, to Galway last Saturday leaves their semi-final qualification very dependent on results in other places.

A fine comeback from Tipperary to snatch a win over Westmeath last Saturday certainly helps the Saffrons cause – but only if they can lower Tipperary’s colours in this game that is being played as a double-header with the Tipperary v Cork senior game.

If Antrim’s defence can cool down the contributions of Niamh Tracey and Jenny Grace, they have a chance. But there would still need to be more shape to their attack.

Verdict: Tipperary

Kildare v Galway

Kildare are struggling at this level and two heavy defeats coming into this game will not help their morale.

Galway are no world beaters, but they have a fine free-taker in Rachel Monahan. But they shouldn’t need her to get the verdict here.

Verdict: Galway

Westmeath v Kilkenny

This was supposed to be the top of the table clash – but Tipperary’s second half come-back last Saturday has changed the dynamic of the group.

Westmeath cannot afford to lose another game. With home venue they have a great chance. However no game for Kilkenny seniors frees up those who regularly get to sit on the senior bench to make the short journey north-west.

I expect a backlash to the Tipperary defeat from Westmeath, but Kilkenny have momentum and plenty of young players that add a lot of pace to an attack that has scored 7-29 in two outings.

Curbing that scoring power will take a lot of work, but closing it down to around 2-10 would give them a chance.

Verdict: Kilkenny

Group 2 results to date:

June 16: Kilkenny 3-14 Antrim 0-6, Galway 3-11 Tipperary 2-14, Westmeath 6-13 Kildare 2-5

June 30: Antrim 3-07 Galway 2-11, Kilkenny 4-15 Kildare 0-6, Tipperary 3-13 Westmeath 4-8

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