Westmeath senior hurling coach Adrian O’Sullivan gives his weekly preview of the Liberty Insurance Camogie Championship games.
Senior Group 1
Limerick v Wexford
It is no understatement to say that this is the biggest game in Limerick camogie in the last decade. Outside of recently promoted Meath, Limerick are the only senior county not to have made a quarter-final in the new format, and they will never be presented with a better chance than awaits them on Saturday.
Given the make up of the group, a win for Limerick here means that only an Offaly win against Kilkenny would prevent them from progressing, and that simply isn’t going to happen.
Winners over Offaly first time out, albeit they relied on a late 1-1 from Rebecca Delee, they used their bye week to their advantage last weekend and won’t have been worried by what they saw down in Bellfield.
Wexford on the other hand are in complete turmoil. Rumours of low attendance at training, coupled with the chaotic start to the year and the hiding they took from Kilkenny means they are very much in damage limitation territory.
Chloe Fox hit all their scores last Saturday and is an exceptional player but she won’t have enough around her to trouble an experienced Limerick defence.
One outcome here, Limerick to win comfortably.
Kilkenny v Offaly
Nowlan Park 5pm
Live stream on Liberty Insurance Facebook
The most interesting thing about this fixture is the clash of the all-Kilkenny managements on their home turf. Offaly are managed by Mick Wall and coached by Ger Walsh and Richie Power, a trio who are well used to success in the black and amber in various codes, but it is fair to say that none of them will have entered this famous ground with as little of a chance of success as they do on Saturday.
Depleted by injury and completely outclassed last weekend by Galway, it is the most daunting of tasks that awaits the Offaly squad on Saturday. They will take some positives from the performances of the Brennan sisters, Sarah Walsh and Anne-Marie Guinan in their defence last week, especially in the first half, but they simply cannot afford to play a sweeper again this weekend.
Kilkenny are a team who relish teams playing seven defenders against them. They will find a way to free up Ann Dalton or Denise Gaule as the spare player and have the skill levels and maturity to play the ball through the lines and do damage.
Ann Downey won’t hold back here. She will be encouraged by the return to form of Denise Gaule and the blistering start to the championship made by Katie Power. They will want to maintain momentum and I fully expect them to do so comfortably here.
Senior Group 2
Tipperary v Waterford
Nowlan Park 3pm
Live stream on Liberty Insurance Facebook
To say Tipperary come into this game in unusual circumstances would be an understatement! Match abandoned in the first round against their opponents this weekend due to a serious injury, strong rumours that Bill Mullaney had quit after this game, a second half collapse against Cork followed quickly by a statement that Mullaney had resigned due to health reasons.
That is a tough set of circumstances for any squad to deal with and Tipp will be looking towards their leadership group to steady the ship this week and ensure they keep their championship hopes alive.
Waterford on the other hand appear to be moving nicely through the gears as the weeks go on. Very impressive in round 1, they led by 4 points heading for the long whistle in the abandoned game, and very mature in working through the Dublin defensive wall last weekend.
Niamh Rockett and Beth Carton have been leading the way but it’s the injection of new blood in the likes of youngsters Lynch and Fitzgerald that have given them the impetus to improve on last years performances.
If Tipp still had Mullaney in charge I would have said that he would have the experience to learn from the first game and do the necessary to ensure victory but I am conflicted now. Teams go one of two ways when faced with managerial change, they can get a bump in performance a la United and Solskjaer or they can go into freefall a la the Offaly hurlers and Joachim Kelly.
I’m going to hedge my bets here and go with the first draw of the championship.