Friday, May 26, 2023

Premier Junior All-Ireland Camogie Championship Group 2 – Round 1 

Saturday, May 27 

Mayo v Armagh at St Patrick’s Park, Westport 

The Mayo camogie team will begin their All-Ireland championship campaign on Saturday when they welcome Armagh to St Patrick’s Park in Westport.

Once again under the management of Jimmy Lyons, it has been a challenging year for his charges so far. With a very young squad – the majority of whom are students currently doing exams – it comes as no surprise to that they have struggled for consistency so far this year.

In Division 3A of the National League, they suffered a sixteen-points defeat to their opponents this weekend, Armagh. The losses continued against Tyrone and Kildare to see them finish bottom of the group but they were able to record their first win of the league in the Division 4 semi-final against Wicklow.

Defeat to Tyrone in the final may have followed, but Jimmy Lyons feels if his team can get that consistency over the hour, then getting out of their group – which also features the second teams of Offaly and Limerick – and securing a place in the knockout stages is within the realms of possibility.

“What we didn’t get across the campaign or in games was the level of consistency that we would like to see,” explained Lyons. “We showed it in periods in the first-half against Armagh, the second-half against Wicklow and the first-half against Tyrone.

“We weren’t able to sustain it over the hour and that might be due to the age profile which is quite young. To get that experience of maintaining that performance for sixty minutes, that only comes with experience.

“It’s a challenging group but we feel that we are capable of getting out of the group and getting to the quarter-finals which would be a massive sign of where we are at and our improvement. We’re quite optimistic that’s achievable.

“There has been a lot of good work done so hopefully we’ll see that put to practice against Armagh.”

It is easy to forget that this Mayo team is still in its infancy having only returned to the senior ranks two years ago. But in a short space of time, Lyons believes much progress has been made.

“You can see there is a greater interest and because there is an adult team in the county, young girls have something they can aspire to.

“Players like Ava (Lambert) and her colleagues are heroes now rather than young girls looking to other sports for role models.

“Underage is improving all the time in all the clubs. Claremorris are developing their own underage structure so numbers will grow in terms of feeding into the senior team. We’re kind of challenged with numbers at the moment but that will change so it should be a gradual upward curve over the next few years and this present group of players are leading the way. They’re the pioneers.”

One of those aforementioned pioneers is their aforementioned captain Ava Lambert. The 20-year old student has been there since the Mayo team first came together and played a big part in them winning the 2021 Nancy Murray Cup. Ava acknowledges the step up since then.

“We learned that it’s a big change from the first year entering the competition. There’s a new level of commitment that must be made by all the girls and I think everyone really rose to the challenge, but it is a learning curve,” said Ava.

“None of us have played at that level within our clubs and that’s definitely a learning curve but we’ll take that in our stride and try to keep building on it.” On the renewed interest in camogie in Mayo, Ava added: “I know a few girls in our team had to stop playing when they were 15 and 16 as there was just nothing for them to advance to.

“We’re so lucky that there is renewed interest and that people want to keep playing as they get older. I’m definitely seeing it in the clubs. The younger girls, they seem really interested and there’s big numbers which is promising to see especially as we’re quite low on numbers.” She now hopes that her team will have taken the lessons learned from the league and that they will be mentally ready for the championship.

“It’s about getting the mind right and then putting in good performances throughout the championship. We were a bit disappointed with how the league went for us and I think it’s just that we need to get a bit of mental stability in games. We’re just trying to keep learning and keep progressing and get a few wins under our belt as well.”

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By Stuart Tynan
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