Mattie Lennon looking forward to learning camogie ropes with Orchard
TAKING on a new county team is difficult at any time, but Armagh camogie boss Mattie Lennon regards the job he has at the moment as one of the most challenging yet.
“It probably would be hard enough anyway as I wouldn’t have the same familiarity or knowledge of the inter-county camogie scene as with inter-county hurling,” says the Derrynoose man, who has had stints in charge of Monaghan and Tyrone hurlers as well as with his native Orchard County.
“So camogie at this level would be totally new to me and then you throw in the pandemic and not being able to run trials or meet players in advance of the return to train. It has been a huge challenge but it is one I am enjoying.”
Lennon, who is also taking Derrynoose senior hurlers and is his club’s coaching officer for all four codes, has brought on board Sean Hawes to help out with the coaching, long-time colleague Pat McStravick to handle liaison and stats, and Eoin Bradley from Killyclogher for strength and conditioning.
“It’s not really about what we can achieve in the National League or even this year. It is going to be difficult to do a huge amount of work in the short term. It is about laying down the structures so that Armagh camogie is in a better place going forward.”
Lennon admits that they have only had three or real training sessions to date, after holding trial games in the weeks after their initial return.
He said: “We had trials and we have around 40 players on board at the moment. We have to cut that down to a panel of 30 and then have 15 starters by Wednesday or Thursday in preparation for Saturday’s opening game against Down.
“In a normal season you would be looking at maybe a couple months to prepare for the first game and in that time you can do work on strength and sonditioning as well as coaching.”
Armagh won the All-Ireland Junior title last December with victory over Cavan in the final, but the new man in charge doesn’t see that as extra pressure on his team heading into the new campaign.
“It was great for the girls to win a title. That is what you want to do as a player. But every year is different, this team is different to last year’s and the teams we will be meeting are different.
“What we achieve this year will be relative to what work we get done in training and over the period of time we stay involved in competition.”
Last year counties could not enter reserve teams in the All-Ireland, but now Armagh find themselves in a league group with second teams from Down, Offaly and Wexford.
And the playing season begins with a visit to their closest neighbours on Saturday.
“I don’t know what to expect from other teams at this point. Our focus is totally on getting our girls ready and putting out the best team we can. After that we will see where things need to change.
“We have a very young team overall and you are looking at the more experienced players guiding those youngsters through. Youth is good to have, but you need experience to help them through, to get the best out of them.”
Currently plans for the structure for rest of the season are on hold with the Association wanting to hand the summer months over to club competition before re-booting the inter-county scene with the Championship in autumn.
The players, however, favour running through to Championship as soon as the league finishes on June 20, with the club season to follow in the autumn.
A second pre-season in September ahead of the All-Ireland would surely help Mattie and his management team with their new challenge?
“We didn’t have a choice on how the season has started. So whatever is decided, we will run with it and do the best we can.
“No matter what type of season we have ahead of us, we will be looking to see progress within the group of players. If we get that, we will know we are on the right track.”
Littlewoods Division Three
Saturday, May 15
Group One: Down v Armagh, Offaly v Wexford
Group Two: Limerick v Clare, Waterford v Carlow
Saturday, May 22
Group One: Wexford v Down, Armagh v Offaly
Group Two: Carlow v Limerick, Clare v Waterford
Saturday, May 29
Group One: Wexford v Armagh, Down v Offaly
Group Two: Carlow v Clare, Limerick v Waterford
Saturday, June 12
Saturday, June 19
Final and relegation final