Former Clare camogie great Catherine O’Loughlin has revealed that the County Senior team needs to have access to the thirty best players if they’re to progress further than recent campaigns.
In an exclusive interview with The Clare Herald, Catherine called on some of the players that have left the panel in recent years to return to the Clare setup. She believes this is the reason why Clare have yet to reach an All-Ireland Senior semi-final since winning the Junior title in 2008.
“Without doubt the talent is there, it’s a matter of getting it all gelled together and I think everyone rowing the same boat to get there and it will take the best thirty players in the County working together. If everyone committed in the right direction to camogie, definitely we’re as good as anyone else”.
Clare’s first All-Star outlined her frustration that a complacency has crept into the starting team as they’re not being put under enough pressure for a place on the team. The fact that the current players know some of the more talented camogie players are not involved does have an effect O’Loughlin admits.
“There is nothing worse than if you’re going out and the team and you know that there are players that aren’t out there with you that should be on the panel. You do need the top thirty players you need the first fifteen to be challenged for their position. It’s only really when you’re challenged for your position that you would be become a better player yourself and having the top people at training you’ll get better yourself. Speed will improve and it will have to improve if you want to get the jersey rather than having a situation where you are literally guaranteed your place, that’s no good for anybody because it doesn’t test your mind before you go out and play the game. I definitely think the talent is in Clare, there’s another crop of players, the last crop that came through maybe five or six years ago, we didn’t see as many of them as we should have, but hopefully the next bunch coming through it will lead to bigger and better teams”.
With development ongoing at Fr McNamara Park, Catherine is confident that once completed it will be huge for camogie in the County. She highlights the recent success enjoyed at schools level as a positive but stressed that these players must be brought on to Clare panels.
“I think it’s absolutely super that there will be a place then where County teams can go to train and it’ll be their very own. There will be no more going around to different pitches and looking to see where are we training tonight or where aren’t we. I think the pitch is a huge boost, a lot of work is being done in the clubs and in the schools. You can see that coming through in Flannans and Tulla, I think the key thing is to keep those players together and to get as many of them as you can into County levels. I know there’s a lot of work being done at the development level. The key thing is to get those players playing at the top level that they can play at underage and then get them on to the Senior squad as soon as they can”.
Since her retirement in 2007, Catherine has taken up a role as Asst Treasurer and while she admits it is important to give back a coaching role is something that is keen on.
“I was playing up until I had my three little men, while I was expecting I couldn’t really play so I got roped into the finance side of it. It is enjoyable but I would hope to get back to coaching and training that side of it. I’d prefer to be out on the pitch than inside in the board room if I had a choice. It’s nice to help out if you have anything to offer, to give back to all the people who would have been involved in the Board when I was playing, it’s nice to do the things so that the players benefit and if you can anything at all wherever it is, it’s nice to help out and support, especially with Fr McNamara pitch, it’s great the news we got this week with the €180,000 Sports Capital Grant so that’s a huge boost and hopefully we can finish it off and upwards and onwards from there”.
When the ace attacker began her adult career with Clare they were playing in the Junior Championship and is delighted with success at underage but feels that it isn’t being translated onto the Senior scene.
“When I started playing Clare were obviously a Junior County, I was lucky enough to win the Junior All-Ireland the first year I played County at adult level, it’s great now to see Clare as a Senior County. The underage success has been great but it hasn’t translated yet onto the Senior and that’s one of the wishes I would have is that underage success we’ve had with County teams would come through and we’d see a Clare Senior team in Croke Park”.
Looking ahead to Sunday’s County Final, the Kilnamona woman is predicting the last five moments of the game as the defining stage.
“Newmarket will start as slight favourites, they’re physically stronger than Inagh/Kilnamona and if you look through their team the majority of them played on County teams at one level or another so they’re a very strong, good hurling team. On the other side, Inagh/Kilnamona it’s the first time that the club have been in a Senior Final so I think that’s a great boost for them. There’s huge work being done at each level and at underage level in the past few years and I think the evidence of that is that they have got to the County Final with a relatively young team, they’re fit, they’re lovely hurlers, they’re very well balanced, they will put it up to Newmarket and if it were to go down to the last five or ten minutes, either team could come out on top”.
A member of Colm Hanley’s management team when Clare escaped from the Junior ranks in 2008, O’Loughlin is optimistic that the Banner can become All-Ireland Champions. However she referred back to getting the best players back in action as the key foundation.
“Without a doubt but competing at semi-finals and finals level it all really goes back to getting your top players in the County playing. I’ve been to a fair few Senior matches over the last five years, Clare have been in hard luck maybe to have got to another semi-final in some of those years but there isn’t a puck of a ball between some of the teams getting it right on the day and if you avoid injuries and get your first team out there’s definitely no reason why Clare couldn’t get to Croke Park and win an All-Ireland, I’m not even talking about getting there, it’s about getting there and winning”.
History books will name Catherine O’Loughlin as Clare Camogie’s first ever All-Star and having given the County great service on and off the field her opinion on the sport is gospel so when plans are being put in place for the 2016 it is essential that attempts are made to get the best players playing for the Banner.
For more chat with Catherine check out Sunday’s match programme at the Clare Senior Camogie Finals as she looks back on a wonderful career.