The covers are down on Jones Road, fighting the weather, ahead of the arrival of the country’s top camogie teams as Athenry chase a first All-Ireland title since 1977.
Their place in the All-Ireland intermediate decider came after a shock domestic relegation in 2016 but the team have regrouped and made their return to the senior ranks.
— Susan (@susanpom) February 11, 2018
It’s an opportunity for three Galway camogie stalwarts to possibly have their last dance in Croke Park. Therese Maher, Regina Glynn and Jessica Gill will be key for Katharine Duane’s charges as they seek to overcome a team who’ve made winning a habit.
Johnstownbridge are the Kildare champions but they haven’t lost in three years. They won the last two All-Ireland junior titles and after being promoted, have come through to reach another national decider.
Dick Flanagan’s team dispatched title holders Carlow’s Myshall in the Leinster Final before beating Tyrone’s Eglish 2-5 to 0-9 in the semi-final five weeks ago.
Captained by goalkeeper Tanya Johnson; they have solid defenders in Eimear Hurley and Aoife Trant while attackers Siobhan Hurley and Roisin O’Connell were goal scorers the last day. But midfielders Aisling Holton and Clodagh Flanagan are established names and both have been winners in Croke Park.
'Clash of the Ash' Johnstownbridge's Siobhan Hurley breaks the hurley of Shauna Jordan of Eglish during their AIB All-Ireland Intermediate Club Camogie Championship Semi-Final today #TheToughest @OfficialCamogie @LiveGAAResults pic.twitter.com/zpazQcRpXx
— Inpho Photography (@Inphosports) January 28, 2018
But Athenry also possess quality throughout the field. Along with the aforementioned, Ciara Cunniffe and Galway’s Noreen Coen are survivors from the team that contested two All-Ireland senior finals in 2007 and 2009.
Niamh Keane and Lorna Hannon are two strong defenders alongside Glynn and Gill. While Dervla Higgins, Niamh Hannon and Niamh Keogh will be responsible for ensuring quality ball into Coen and Maher.
Athenry handled expectations to emerge 1-10 to 0-10 winners over Mountbellew/Moylough in county final. But they showed their pedigree in the All-Ireland semi-final against Waterford’s Lismore. With Maher, Gill, Niamh Hannon and Coen on target, Athenry ground out an 0-8 to 0-2 victory.
The county tags will mean nothing as it’s the Kildare team with two All-Ireland wins against the Galway side with two All-Ireland losses. But Athenry never imagined this chance would come again. And it’s unlikely they will let it slip.
Athenry (possible): Megan McDonagh; Regina Glynn, Niamh Keane, Fiona Page; Lorna Hannon, Jessica Gill, Kate Moran; Dervla Higgins, Grace Cahill; Niamh Donnellan, Therese Maher, Niamh Keogh; Noreen Coen, Niamh Hannon, Elora Mahon.
Johnstownbridge (possible): Tanya Johnson; Erin McEvoy, Eimear Hurley, Ellen Morgan; Careen Farrell, Aoife Trant, Jenna Murphy; Aishling Holton, Clodagh Flanagan; Catherine Moloney, Siobhan Hurley, Miriam Murphy; Caoimhe Keoghegan, Roisin O’Connell, Shauna Beatty.