Words by Coilin Duffy
Aisling Maher says there’s lot of positives to take despite a mixed league campaign as Dublin head into the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship.
The opening group game takes place this Saturday against Meath at Parnell Park at 5pm.
Frank Browne’s charges recorded a win, a draw and two losses from their four league games, before losing out to Kilkenny in the first round of the Leinster Championship. St Vincent’s Maher is looking ahead to the Round-Robin style All-Ireland Championship with great hope.
“I think there were loads of positives to take from the league,” she told the Dublin Gazette at the launch of the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Championship.
“It was a bit of an up and down campaign – probably not the course we would have written for ourselves going into it, but we had a brand new management team coming in and a massive number of players coming up.
“Players coming in from the Premier Juniors and younger players coming up from underage. For me personally going out playing matches towards the start, there was six, seven, eight players alongside me that I wouldn’t have played with before and wouldn’t know going into the matches.
“That leaves a lot of room for improvement from players and from management to learn how players play; who plays well where and how a team might gel and fit together.
“I think the league and Leinster and the challenge games that we would have played along the way giving us an opportunity to get to know the team and play a bit better and see what works out for us in terms of our game plan and management.”
Exiting the Leinster Championship to last year’s All-Ireland finalists Kilkenny was disappointing as Maher relishes facing the best.
“Sure we always seem to get Kilkenny in the first round!” Maher said. “At the end of the day we want to play tough games, and there’s no interest in walking through a couple of rounds of Leinster.
“We would rather get one tough game and if that results in a heavy defeat in the first-round, well as long as you are learning from that defeat, and as long as you are picking up on areas you can improve on – well that can mean something to us in the long run.
“Look, Kilkenny are tough opposition, they have always been there or thereabouts, but there’s no point in pulling the wool over your eyes as to where you are in terms of the tough competition.
“It was nice for us to pitch ourselves against the best and see where we are and see the areas we need to improve on, going forward.”
And what does Maher feel those areas are?
“That’s a secret! Ah no, it’s a young team and defensively we probably thought we were opened up a bit in the Leinster Championship, so that’s something we’ll definitely be working on coming into the All-Ireland Championship now, and hopefully we can take it forward.”
Dublin face into a group with All-Ireland Champions Cork; Clare, Tipperary, Waterford and Meath; and Aisling says a tricky opener awaits against the Royals.
“Meath are a very good side. They are up in the Senior Championship now and are obviously there for good reason. They were very strong in Intermediate before being moved up.
“Every year we play them they are there or thereabouts and we would be close to even in a lot of games. Meath will know us very well, and we’ll know them well.”