Getting to the top of the pile is one thing but staying there presents it’s own unique set of challenges, something which Inagh-Kilnamona manager Margaret Lafferty can testify to as they look to accomplish back-to-back senior championship titles this Saturday against a vengeful Newmarket-on-Fergus.
“When you’re on top, everybody wants to beat you and for any team to beat the county champions would be a huge bonus to drive them on and reinforce the belief that they are making progress.
“We found that this year as we had a very tough group and were absolutely thrilled to come out of that so we’re hoping that those games will stand to us for the final. We had really tough challenges in all the matches we’ve played in this year’s championship and I feel that it can only be a good thing.
“That said, throughout the entire championship, we haven’t yet put the 60 minutes together or played a full hour in top form.
“I think with the intensity that the game is being played at now though, it’s very difficult to get the 60 minutes of intensity out of the players. They drift in and out of the game and you can understand that because camogie has come on an awful lot in the last few years and it’s really played at a high intensity now.
“Unfortunately we haven’t had our top 15 available to us in any game so far either due to injuries but we have been lucky that we have a panel of players and have a good bench so there are at least 20 players that are fighting hard for their places and know that they have to perform when they do get the chance.”
Having began their senior final bid as inexperienced newcomers in 2015, two years on, the wheel has come full circle as Inagh-Kilnamona have now assumed the role of favourites for this weekend’s decider, with Lafferty hoping that last year’s winning experience can provide the additional confidence and self-belief to retain their title.
“We started off with a very young team that have gained experience with every game. They would have learned a lot from the past two finals and they now know what it takes to win a county final. It’s never easy though but hopefully that experience of playing in two finals will stand to them.
“We’re looking forward to the final we also know that Newmarket were so disappointed last year and I’m sure that they have been waiting for the past 12 months to play us again and will be up for it just as we are.
“Newmarket have been the kingpins of Clare camogie for the past decade and possess a really strong group of inter-county players that have gained great experience at the top level. It’s really difficult to match that as experience in a game is a great tool to have and they certainly have that. And I’ve no doubt that they will be really up for this game and they will be determined to win their title back.
“However, on the field of play, I certainly think we can match them, it’s just all about the performance on the day.
“It’s about the occasion as well and for the past two years, some of our girls were very nervous, having never played in a county final at senior level before. This time though there shouldn’t any nerves as the starting 15 next Saturday will all have played in a senior county final and we’d be hopeful that that experience would stand to them.”