Hurling and camogie

Paula O'Hagan and her Down team-mates primed for crunch clash with Cork

Séamas McAleenan

Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Intermediate Championship Group 1

Saturday, 5pm: Páirc Esler: Down v Cork

WHEN Paula Gribben married Darren O'Hagan last October, the wedding was shoe-horned into the busy schedule of two elite sports stars.

Both were coming to the tail-end of a season that saw Paula captain the Down senior camogie team and Darren captain the senior football team that reached the Ulster final.

Three weeks after the wedding she played in Clonduff's Ulster club final defeat to Eglish.

“Yeah, my life has pretty much been centred around sport from I was no height. I played a lot of football when I was younger as well as camogie and loved every minute of it,” she said.

The PE teacher had a fairly successful under-age career in both sports, winning an All-Ireland under 16 football title with Down and following that up with an All-Ireland Minor camogie medal, won in a final in Casement Park against Antrim.

At club level she holds county senior championship medals in both codes with Clonduff: “I really enjoyed both sports, but in the past few years Clonduff has focused more on camogie and the football has dropped back, although we are doing pretty well at under-age level at present.

“I was also coming to a point where I had too much on and was going to have to choose between the two anyway.

“I wanted to keep playing county camogie and try to build on winning the All-Ireland Junior four years ago, but for some reason or another there wasn't the same motivation or desire to push on in the squad as a whole and we really had stagnated a bit.”

Things seemed to be continuing on a downward trend earlier this year, when after a poor league campaign they faced the prospect of Kildare in a relegation play-off with no manager in place.

“Martina Rooney came in as manager a couple of weeks before the Kildare game and all of a sudden the whole atmosphere seemed to change.

“Attendances at training shot up and girls had that hunger and drive to succeed again – in no small measure to Derek Dunne from Laois who travels for hours to coach us and his input has been invaluable.

“No, that was a turning point in the season alright.”

Since that turnaround in April, Down are unbeaten.

They won the play-off to secure Division 2 camogie next season, then beat Armagh and Derry to win the Ulster senior title and have kick-started the All-Ireland series with a draw against Derry and a win in Carlow.

“Each one of those games were big games for us, in that we tried to build on the previous one and keep the momentum going.

“Winning Ulster was a big deal because Down hadn't done it in 13 years and none of us had a medal.

“To beat Derry took a big performance. But I think the championship game against them in Portaferry was an even better performance from us.

“We lost Sara Louise (Carr) to a hamstring injury early in the game, dropped half a dozen points behind and still got a draw out of it without scoring a goal.

“So that took some character, something we didn't seem to have in recent times.”

Sarah Louise Carr has been back training and there would seem to be a full squad available for selection ahead of the visit of Cork to Páirc Esler (Saturday, 5pm).

“It is really a crunch game for both teams. Cork and Derry drew last week and that more or less means that whichever of us wins today, we should have a very good chance of reaching the semi-finals – along with Derry.

“The loser, I'm afraid will be gone for the season, with a game still to go.

“Cork looked unbeatable all year, but the result from Swatragh should motivate us. We are lucky that it is a home game and we don't have to travel to Cork.

“I've been on those journeys before and it is hard to get out of a bus after a six- or seven-hour journey and play a key match.”

Paula O'Hagan has her sights set on Croke Park in early September, while she is hoping that Clonduff can retain their championship title in Down and maybe go further: “At the moment I am out training or playing for maybe six of the seven evenings of the week.

“With 10 Clonduff girls on the county panel, a club session without us wouldn't amount to much. So we are going hard on two fronts.”

Meanwhile she is running a couple of bootcamps over the summer in Clonduff Youth Club and is laying down plans on a new family home with Darren.

A busy schedule for a busy lady who wants her sporting summer to run and run.

Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Championship Group 1

Saturday 14 July, 5pm

Nowlan Park: Kilkenny v Clare

Walsh Park: Waterford v Limerick

Kilkenny v Clare

Clare will work hard in this game, but are not scoring enough to trouble Kilkenny who should claim a knock-out place with this result.

Verdict: Kilkenny

Waterford v Limerick

Both teams will see a quarter-final spot disappear if they don't win today. Having put in good shifts in their two away games and with two home games left, Waterford look to be in a good place.

Limerick have a point on the board (a draw with Clare), but they were off the pace in the other games.

Verdict: Waterford

Group 1 Results to date

June 9: Galway 1-16 Clare 0-9, Kilkenny 2-18 Limerick 0-11

June 16: Galway 4-12 Waterford 0-8, Clare 0-8 Limerick 0-8

June 30: Galway 3-14 Limerick 1-11, Kilkenny 1-13 Waterford 0-10

League Table Liberty Insurance Senior Camogie Championship Group 1 Table

Pld W D L PD Pts

Galway 3 3 0 0 35 9

Kilkenny 2 2 0 0 19 6

Clare 2 0 1 1 -10 1

Limerick 3 0 1 2 -22 1

Waterford 2 0 0 2 -22 0

Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Championship Group 2

Saturday July 14, 5pm: Trim: Meath v Cork

Bellefield-Enniscorthy: Wexford v Dublin

The Ragg: Tipperary v Offaly

Meath v Cork

A non-event – top of the league against the bottom team. Perhaps an opportunity for Cork manager Paudie Murray to run his bench.

Verdict: Cork

Wexford v Dublin

The Offaly game for each is the best indicator where these teams are. Offaly lost to Dublin by five points in the capital, but used home advantage last week to beat Wexford by 1-18 to 1-12 in Birr

Dublin are in the running for a quarter-final spot, Wexford, who won four of their seven titles 2007-2012, are on a face-saving mission.

Verdict: Dublin

Tipperary v Offaly

Tipperary seem a little off the pace this year, but they still carry a threat. They are coming off a fairly heavy defeat to Cork, but if they can lift themselves for this game, they should beat the visitors.

Offaly raised a few eyebrows by beating Wexford last week and by running in 1-18. That leaves them in a good place coming into this game. But they must win as they are unlikely to get anything from the visit to Cork in the final round of games

Verdict: Tipperary

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

July 7: Cork 1-27 Tipperary 1-12, Offaly 1-18 Wexford 1-12, Dublin 2-11 Meath 0-8

Pld W D L PD Pts

Cork 3 3 0 0 48 9

Offaly 3 2 0 1 12 6

Tipperary 3 2 0 1 10 6

Dublin 3 2 0 1 -4 6

Wexford 3 0 0 3 -24 0

Meath 3 0 0 3 -42 0

Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Intermediate Championship Group 1

Saturday, 5pm

Rathdowney: Laois v Derry

Páirc Esler: Down v Cork

Laois v Derry

With just Carlow to play in their final game, Derry should make headway on the league table with this game. Laois took a 26 points hammering from Cork and were less than impressive in their 1-6 to 0-9 draw with Carlow.

However in the league, they came to Owenbeg and beat the home side – so a Derry win is far from guaranteed

Verdict: Derry

Down v Cork

Cork were flying in their opening two league games, accumulating a score difference of 53 points. No one expected the stall in Swatragh last Saturday. Was it the journey up? Did they take Derry for granted? Or did the home side get it right and step up to the mark on the day?

The answers to these questions will be of huge interest to the most improved team this season from league to championship. Unbeaten since their league play-off with Kildare, Down are playing with confidence.

However after Derry last week, Cork will be on their guard and know that defeat today will probably knock them out of the championship. A draw would see them probably top the group though.

Verdict: Cork – but Down have a good chance of upsetting the form-book once again

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

July 7: Derry 0-11 Cork 0-11, Laois 1-6 Carlow 0-9.

Team Played Won Drawn Lost Points Diff Points

Cork 3 2 1 0 53 7

Down 2 1 1 0 5 4

Derry 2 0 2 0 0 2

Laois 2 0 1 1 -26 1

Carlow 3 0 1 2 -32 1

Liberty Insurance Premier Junior Camogie Championship Group 1

Saturday 5pm

Abbeydorney: Kerry v Clare

Bruff: Limerick v Offaly

Liberty Insurance Premier Junior Camogie Championship Group 2

Saturday 5pm

Parnells GAA-Coolock: Dublin v Armagh

It is Round 1 day in the Liberty Insurance Junior camogie championship and that means Armagh are taking the field for the first time since their Ulster semi-final defeat by Down at the end of May.

Armagh struggled in most of their league games when on the road and it will be difficult for them to take anything from this game against a fairly strong Dublin side

Verdict: Dublin

All-Ireland Under 16 B championship

Sunday 2.30pm:

Kilcormac: Offaly v Laois

Johnstownbridge: Kildare v Meath

Clane: Derry v Waterford

TBC: Westmeath v Down

Derry should qualify for the semi-finals if they defeat Waterford in Clane. It should be a close enough game however and the Ulster team will need to be on their toes to keep that 100% record intact.

Down have been poor enough in their games so far and will struggle to get a result from their visit to Westmeath.

In the other section, the winner from Offaly v Laois will almost certainly claim a semi-final spot, while Meath and Kildare are fighting over the wooden spoon.

All-Ireland Under 16 B championship results:

Round 1: Derry 1-10 Antrim 1-5, Down 0-3 Waterford 6-14, Armagh 3-7 Kildare 3-4, Laois 5-18 Meath 0-1.

Round 2: Kildare 1-5 Offaly 2-16, Meath 3-3 Armagh 2-14, Waterford 1-10 Antrim 3-10, Westmeath 1-4 Derry 6-10

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