AHEAD of this weekend’s proceedings in Tullamore, Communications & Press Officer Jason O’Connor got the thoughts of both the host county and defending champion county’s captains. He finds both very much in favour of the changes the Inter-County has seen for the Ladies game in recent times.
Tracey McGrath- Offaly Captain
SHE’S had the privilege of being an Irish team captain in the past but Tracey McGrath leads her county out into battle on home turf this weekend with a small, but no less noticeable belief, from the outside that the hosts can achieve something special this weekend. The Erry player is keen to stress the Faithful County have history to overcome however as much as anything else if they are to feature in the reckoning this weekend. “While all players look forward to the Inter-County every year, Offaly haven’t traditionally done well in this event down through the years so I don’t think the same level of expectation will apply to us as other host counties in the Inter-County. Seeing what the Tipperary Ladies achieved on home soil last year will really give us more confidence in Tullamore this weekend though and having local knowledge of this particular course should undoubtedly help our cause,” Tracey feels.
With Tullamore native Margaret Hogan lining out in the county colours this weekend’s however it can only improve Offaly’s chances of doing well on home turf and Tracey admits Margaret will be a big boost to the side. “A player of Margaret’s calibre will boost any county in this event and we’re very happy to have her play with us this weekend, I'm delighted to see her back on the Inter-County scene,” she said. Outside of internal factors there are reasons for Offaly and some of the other counties who have not featured in the medals to be hopeful of a good showing this weekend. Tipperary’s success on home turf in Hillview last year was the first time a county outside of the ‘Big Three’ of Cork, Dublin or Kildare won the Ladies event since Kerry’s win in 1995 (on home turf in Tralee for the Kingdom) and Tracey feels the event has taken on a different meaning for the Ladies players. “Definitely to be playing over two days and at the same time as the Gents does give the Inter-County a much better feel for the Ladies. We feel more involved and not as segregated as in years before when the Ladies played on the Saturday and the Gents on the Sunday. There is more of a Championship feel to the Inter-County now for the Ladies in my opinion,” the two time National Singles champion said.
Indeed Tracey feels the event could become more attractive to the less established counties in the Ladies game. “I feel the introduction of the third place medal in Leinster was a big boost to how Offaly viewed the Inter-County. Given how the championship has been dominated by Dublin and Kildare, the introduction of third really gave those who don't normally feature in the reckoning something to fight for. It would be great to see something done at national level to incentivise the weaker counties and help improve the number of teams taking part. There is a divide in the Ladies game, and there is a lingering question as to how to reduce it, but I think that's a bigger issue in respect of the Ladies game in general ?that needs to be addressed by everyone from grassroots to NEC level,” she said. In terms of how the weekend might pan out, Tracey feels Saturday will have a big effect on how the Singles will pan out on Sunday. “The Scotch Foursomes does even the playing field for everyone I feel and any county that does well in that can feel confident about their chances heading into Sunday. A lot can happen in the Singles especially depending on what the weather will be like and I think the back nine in Tullamore will play a big part in terms of deciding who the winners will be in the end. I don’t think anything will be decided until the last putt is holed on Sunday afternoon in both the Ladies and Gents respectively.”
We all are anxious to find out how true that might turn out to be Sunday in the Midlands.
Michelle McCarthy- Tipperary Captain
SHE was an interested spectator last year as Tipperary ended a 23 year wait in winning the Ladies Inter-County but Hillview’s Michelle McCarthy will be in the thick of the action herself this weekend as she captains Tipperary in its defence of a much cherished win in 2013. Michelle admits that this a good time for the Ladies game in the Premier County. “It was fantastic to watch the win in Hillview last year and after winning two out of the three Munster titles for the Ladies it certainly has been a great year so far,” Michelle said.
She attributes the present success Tipperary are having down to some good work at Juvenile level in the last decade. “We had about eight girls playing regularly when I was Juvenile and from that myself, Gemma (her sister) and Martha O’Brien are all still playing the game. It does take a while to see Juvenile success come to fruition in the adult ranks but I think it’s starting to show for us now,” she said. Tipperary bridged an 18 year gap on home turf in Tipperary Hills a month ago when they won their first Munster title since 1996, a victory Michelle put down to good team-work on the day. “We got a very good routine going on the day between the six players and certainly we drew confidence from it in going on to win. While it’s going to hard to match Hillview from last year, we certainly feel that we’re capable of going up there and being in the mix,” the Tipp Ladies Captain said.
Michelle recently played Tullamore in the Joe Pyke Memorial Scratch Cup and she agrees with the building consensus that the back nine will play a huge part in proceedings. “It certainly is very long and tough. Conditions are going to play a big part as well and whatever county does manage to win it out will certainly have earned it,” she said. Finally the captain agrees with her Offaly counterpart about the Inter-County being a much better event for the Ladies with play now over two days. “Certainly I think there’s a lot more togetherness between Ladies and Gents teams in counties now with the fact we are now playing over the weekend as opposed to separate days.”
Certainly without the pressure of playing at home like last year it will be interesting to see how the Tipperary team perform in the Faithful County.
Tomorrow: We speak to some of the Gents Captains.
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