All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship Round 1
Dublin v Clare @ Parnell’s GAA, Coolock, Dublin, Saturday, 2.30pm
Referee: Owen Elliott (Antrim)
That was it she thought. After 14 years at the highest level, Denise Lynch had more than paid her dues to Clare Camogie and her decision to retire at the backend of 2016 seemed to spell the end of a glittering inter-county career.
However, Clare and more specifically manager Trish O’Grady, whom she initially played alongside in her debut season that ended in an All-Ireland Junior Final defeat to Galway after a replay in 2003 and more recently had coached the goalkeeper since 2011, wasn’t prepared to let her go.
“I wasn’t really expecting the role [as selector] to be honest with you. I’d kind of thought that I was finished with the team completely but Trish asked me to stay on, I kind of thought about it for a few weeks and I’m really delighted that I’ve stayed on now.
“It’s probably a lot harder a job than I initially thought it was going to be, I think as a player sometimes you’re kind of looking at your management team saying not that it’s easy but that it’s easier than you think.
“It’s a tough gig really and there’s an awful lot to think of, there’s a lot more responsibility on you as part of a management team to make sure that everything is right rather than just being a player and looking after yourself and that being the sole job really. Whereas when you’re part of a management team, you are trying to think of everything and look after every aspect.”
Still being a player herself with Kilmaley, Lynch knows more than most about both sides of the player/management divide.
“It’s strange because you be trying to get to a lot of matches to watch players as well, something that I wasn’t really used to doing before. Then the league as it was with the club this year, we played all the senior teams so you’d be playing away the match and kind of watching players at the same time. And God forbid someone might score a goal on you, you’d never hear the end of it.”
And did they?
“Well, Orlaith Duggan scored a peach of a goal against us and she wasn’t long telling me about it the next night at training, Sarah Loughnane for the ‘Bridge as well!
“It’s just different, it’s a totally different mentality of having a full 360 degree view of things rather than just minding your own patch really.”
So what is her assessment of the current squad that will contest the upcoming All-Ireland Championship?
“There is still probably a gap of say from your mid-20’s to 30’s that for one reason or another, we only have one or two in that age group.
“We would have had players that have emigrated for different reasons. In Kilmaley alone, there are three players that probably would have been part of this if they weren’t out there. There’s a few more that have chosen different sports and you can’t really do much about that either but I do think that there’s a lovely team coming together now. “When you’re looking at your Roisin’s and your Maire’s and your Carol’s and your Chloe’s and now you’ve got the likes of Ciara Doyle who is unfortunately injured but will be back, Amy Barrett, Ciara Grogan and so on, there’s a lovely team coming up, there really is. And I think that it will be a team that will be very successful in the long run.”
Having contested five All-Ireland Junior Finals (if you include the replays in 2003 and ’05) before finally winning one in 2008 and then making the leap to Munster senior success in 2012, Lynch has been part of the past two breakthrough generations but can envisage even greater things for the current crop provided that they can maintain their development path.
“The way the fixtures are set up this year, we are playing Dublin first and then Waterford the following week so It’s absolutely crucial that we win those two games. Do that and we’ve a real chance of getting into a quarter-final or even a semi-final and with the make-up of the other group, you’d think if you met any of those teams in a quarter-final, you’d beat any of them on your day. So if we can get over Dublin on Sunday, a lot could open up for us.
“Are we going to win the All-Ireland this year? Who knows but why not have a crack at it. It’s maybe something that’s in the long term plan more so than this year to be perfectly honest about it but I do think this team, if they do stay together, will win an All-Ireland.”
In terms of immediate goals however, banishing last year’s whitewash and getting back to winning ways this Saturday would be a significant start.
“Look, we’re a long time now without a win, let’s be frank about it. So if we were to get a win against Dublin in the first round it would be a massive boost for us. It would get the confidence up, put a bit of momentum behind you and it would mean that you would be very confident welcoming Waterford to our own home patch in the second round. So that’s why Saturday is just so crucial.
“They [Dublin] are very similar to ourselves and would have had a few retirements this year as well, girls that I would have played against all the way up along. So they are probably very similar to us in terms of age profile and very similar to us in the type of player they’re picking as well.
“I wouldn’t see that there would be too much between the two teams come Saturday but at the same time, we are going really confidently up to Dublin looking for a win.
“And I think the way the girls have trained over the past few weeks, there’s a real air of energy and confidence about them so if they could just bring that to Dublin, I’d be very confident of a win.”