Offaly’s Senior and Junior Camogie teams begin their quest for All Ireland glory this weekend away to teams who won League titles in the spring.
The Offaly Senior team travel to Nowlan Park on Saturday evening to take on Division 1 winners Kilkenny while the Junior team travel to Ballybrown on Sunday to take on Division 4 winners Limerick.
Aidan Franks’ Senior team had a mixed leagur campaign recording wins over Dublin and Tipperary however defeats to Wexford and Cork saw them miss out on the knock-out stages. Their Leinster Championship campaign was a disappointment as they lost at home to Kilkenny in the semi-final in Birr. Offaly were off form that day conceding 7-14 to Kilkenny and they will have to play far better on Saturday if they are to get their campaign off to a winning start.
The Liberty Insurance Senior Camogie Championship is divided into two groups of five teams with Offaly in Group 2. Also in Offaly’s group are Division 1 League finalists Clare along with Tipperary and Derry. Offaly play Clare and Derry at home while they make the short trip south to play Tipperary in their final game.
With three teams coming out of the groups, Offaly will fancy their chances of making the quarter-finals for the third succesive year but they will need to be on their guard as the standard of teams across the country is improving every year.
The panel is a mix of experienced players who have helped Offaly rise up through the ranks from Junior to Senior in a short space of time while manager Aidan Franks has also brought a number of younger players into the panel. Four of the panel have been tied up with Leaving Cert exams in recent weeks which has not helped the preparation for this important game.
Offaly played a relatively settled side throughout the league and in recent weeks they have played a number of challenge matches where the form has been good.
However the standard will go up markedly against Kilkenny who, despite losing the Leinster Final to Wexford, have been one of the form teams in the country for the last two years. As well as winning the league final, they also were involved in last year’s All Ireland Senior Final where they were unlucky to lose out to Galway.
If Offaly were to get a win in Nowlan Park on Saturday, it would be a great start to their campaign and would put them in pole position to top the group.
On Sunday, the Offaly Junior team begin their Liberty Insurance Junior A Camogie Championship run against Limerick’s second team. Offaly’s second team do not play in the league but they started their season on s positive note with a win over Westmeath in the Leinster Junior semi-final. However they suffered a heavy defeat to Laois in the Leinster Final and manager Sean O’Meara will have had to work hard to lift the spirits of his side after that result.
Limerick come into the game on a good run of form after winning Division 4 in the league and they only lost out narrowly to Cork in the Munster Junior Final.
The rest of the group is made up of Kildare and Meath’s second teams, both of whom Offaly play at home.