It’s a campaign with a difference for Orlaith Duggan as she prepares to lead her County for the first time in a Championship setting this weekend.
That setting is Sixmilebridge as Clare take on Offaly at 17:15 in their first outing of the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship. We asked Orlaith how she’s coping with the role of captain to date.
“It was a huge honour to be named as captain and naturally I was delighted when Trish told me, it didn’t really change how I was focused in on the year, we committed at the start of the year and that was always going to be the case it was never going to be any different when I was named as captain but obviously it was a nice surprise, I think I’ve enjoyed captaincy if you can say that”.
Little has changed since Trish O’Grady appointed Duggan as skipper but she reveals she’s more aware of setting a good example, something which she has always tried to do. “You’d always be a bit more conscious of trying to be the good example, naturally growing up you’d always picture the captains as the really good example, they do the right things and I’ve been trying to be a good example for the rest of us but other than that no. I would be fairly committed myself as a player so that just followed through when I was named captain”.
Clooney/Quin’s sole panellist declares that playing the sport in the summer months is a dream while embracing their health and well-being. “It’s the dream, I know it’s a huge cliché when you’re doing the winter training and the hard running, the circuits you’re almost getting sick of the thought of going to training it’s evenings like this when the sun is splitting the rocks and you come in the door from work or school and all you want to do is grab your hurley and go out and when you think back to the basic things we’re blessed to be able to do it and we’re healthy so it’s a dream really, we’re looking forward to a good summer of hurling now”.
Reflecting on the League campaign, Orlaith says it was mixed but good. The League is in the past for now and she is anticipating a stern test from Offaly this Saturday. “We’re expecting a huge challenge, Offaly are a really good team, we’ve played them numerous times over the last few years and there’s only been a puck of a ball between us, we beat them in the League alright but they were understrength that day and they’re training hard and we’re expecting a tough battle, they’ll want to win every game that comes their way in the group aswell, it’s a tough group so all we’re focused in on at the moment is the game against Offaly”.
Although it’s something she hasn’t contemplated much, the speech and language therapist would like to think that the Clare Senior Camogie panel are positive role models for the youth of the County to admire.
“When you’re playing it’s not something you think of, the people coming up behind you. I remember going to so many Clare games and I idolised Deirdre Murphy like and then one day I actually began playing with her and I couldn’t believe it, it was a dream. So I suppose yeah it’s nice to see the younger players here and they’re following camogie because a lot of younger players would be more interested in the hurling maybe and they’d recognise a lot more hurlers and stuff so it’s nice that they’re coming to see the camogie and they might recognise Maire McGrath on the street or Roisin McMahon”.
Sixteen members of O’Grady’s thirty one woman squad are teenagers. Duggan feels the younger girls are adapting superbly to the setup. “They’re gelling in well now, they’ve come from a great minor team, they’re a really talented bunch and they’ve gelled together really well themselves so I think it’s actually been a natural transition for them, a lot of the core players on our senior team would be well experienced, we all know how it feels to be coming into a senior team in your first year like and I think they’ve really gelled and they’re excellent players so they’re not out of place at all”.
In her underage years with the Banner, Orlaith competed in several All-Ireland finals and tasted provincial glory under John Carmody. This success and victories over favoured teams has helped the twenty two year old to develop a fearless mentality.
“As you said, me, Chloe, Maire, Niamh O’Dea we all came up on the same team winning Munster Finals and contesting All-Ireland finals so we had quite a bit of experience at underage and we never really feared anyone of the so-called bigger teams which I think we’ve brought through at senior level the fear of the bigger teams or the bigger names isn’t there, I don’t think although the younger teams haven’t been as successful as we were I don’t think that mentality is there either”.
Usually there is a close working relationship between a manager and captain, the Clare Senior Camogie setup is no different and falls into this bracket. “I would have been working with Trish on numerous teams in the year and we have a good working relationship, she might say different at times. We do work closely together and I think that it’s very important that players have a good bond with management aswell as a barrier of respect also of course but we do have a really good working relationship and she’s a real positive influence on our squad and she really brings it all together” Duggan commented.
What do Clare hope to achieve in 2016? The NUIG graduate tells The Clare Herald that reaching an All-Ireland final is their end goal. “At the start of the year if you’re looking past anything but getting to an All-Ireland Final you’re wasting your time I think, there’s a great bunch here and we’re hugely committed and really ambitious and we have been for a number of years but things just haven’t went right for us and we’ve missed maybe that stroke of luck in a couple of games but we really do believe that we can get to an All-Ireland Final and contest an All-Ireland final and really we’re not focused on anything beyond that, that’s the end goal”.
A picture of Orlaith commiserating with Offaly’s Siobhán Flannery went viral in 2014 due to the respect shown by the Clooney/Quin woman. In the space of two years nothing has changed in terms of how gracious she is but once more Orlaith will be hoping she is the one empathising with players from the Faithful County at the final whistle and not vice versa.