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Dublin: 11 °C Wednesday 26 June, 2019
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'There is a firm belief there that this year we can win the All-Ireland and we will win'

Dublin can become the top camogie side in the country and lift the O’Duffy Cup in September, according to Eimear McCarthy.

2018 HAS BEEN a mixed bag to date for the Dublin senior camogie side.

The Dublin team celebrate Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

It started with a draw against Limerick, the result stolen some say. Their next outing ended in defeat following a second-half demolition job by reigning Littlewoods Ireland National League Division 1 champions Kilkenny.

Two weeks later, David Herity’s charges added their first win to the previous draw and loss, and it came in the form of a five-point beating of 2017 All-Ireland intermediate champions Meath.

When speaking to Eimear McCarthy in Parnell Park days before that meeting with the Royals, she was well aware of how important turning her sides fortunes around was.

“We have three must-win games coming up,” she stressed. “We’re really driving on to get three wins out of these games and make the league semi-final.”

With one win of the three under their belt, their focus turns to Waterford today (throw-in 2pm, WIT Carrignore) with the challenge of Clare lurking next week.

St Vincent’s midfielder McCarthy is full of confidence though. And she believes Dublin have even bigger fish to fry than a successful league campaign.

Refreshing

“I do believe that we’re going to get there, we will get there. It’s not going to be an easy road to get there but we will do it.”

The last time the O’Duffy Cup wintered in the capital was 1984, and there’s a belief there — preached convincingly by McCarthy — that the end of a wait for a reunion is nearing a close.

Last August, they ended a 32-year drought to reach an All-Ireland semi-final. A famous win over a much-fancied Wexford side saw them get there, but they bowed out at the hands of an experienced Kilkenny team on the day.

The confidence they drew from breaking that duck though was momentous.

“100%, the belief,” McCarthy agrees.

AIG / Dublin GAA 2018 Season Launch Source: David Fitzgerald/SPORTSFILE

“That was one thing that David and the backroom team and everyone wanted to put in last year — the belief that you can. We can make it there. If you’re not going to back yourself, you’re not going to make it. We do have that backing.

“I think that’s one thing that we really took from that — the belief that we’re actually not that far off Kilkenny. It’s definitely brilliant to be able to drive on next year and to know that you can overcome these teams.”

Over the past few years, there’s been a sense that the entire camogie year is pretty much a two-dog race between Cork and Kilkenny.

Cork won back-to-back All-Ireland titles in 2015 and 2016 before the Cats stole the crown back, ending a 22-year wait to do so, while the Rebels swung it back by a single point last September. The league has been quite a similar story.

Top two and chasing pack. Is that really the case though?

“I do think there can be sometimes a divide,” McCarthy continues.

“But I don’t think that Kilkenny or Cork are on a higher bar than any of us. I think we’re just as good as them and it’s just on the day, getting over the line and getting there.”

Kilkenny influence 

That said, there’s plenty to improve on, particularly after a league start that has been much more disappointing than anticipated. In that opening round draw against Limerick, the Sky Blues reliquished a six-point lead.

They’re learning their lessons.

“When we’re ahead, stay ahead,” she says. Simple as that.

Eimear McCarthy concedes a free Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

“The game can be changed from both sides. When you’re on top, stay on top and don’t let someone in. Don’t give someone that purple patch.”

It’s a tough lesson to learn, but it came with benefits. They realised that leadership, communication and the likes is of huge importance. The native county of their manager Herity comes up in conversation.

“That’s really something that they (Kilkenny) do. When you are ahead, don’t just lay back and think, ‘Ah, we’re grand.’ You have to drive on. The more scores you can get on the board, the better.

“When you’re beating someone, don’t be afraid to beat them by an astronomical amount.”

No better man to drill that into them than David Herity.

A five-time All-Ireland senior winner with the Kilkenny hurlers between the posts, he’s really shifted the attitude in the camp.

McCarthy is first to echo that, once again.

“David’s a super, super trainer,” she smiles.

“His trainings are absolutely brilliant. He really puts belief in you that you can do it and you are the best. Someone coming from a set-up like Kilkenny is unbelievable. It’s funny because sometimes before a game he can actually tell you how you’re feeling.

“He just has been there, done everything, has been through every emotion. I think that’s a really good aspect that he’s brought. He knows what we need and he knows how to drive on and exactly what to do.

“Through video analysis, we’re seeing where we can improve. It’s really positive. He’s really, really helping us.”

She adds, when asked if it’s a case of that there’s more work being put into mindset than fitness:

“I do think it’s a little bit of everything. The team are phenomenally fit, that was commented on an awful lot last year. It’s mindset and belief but I think your fitness and stuff comes from that.

David Herity Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Once you back yourself, you’re going to get fitter and drive on from that. Knowing that we are good and we are the best.

“There is a firm belief there that hopefully this year we can win the All-Ireland and we will win it.”

A trainee accountant with KPMG, McCarthy admits that she’s noticed a change of opinion towards her side this year, even just compared to last year. People are more aware of the force that is Dublin.

Securing that All-Ireland semi-final berth in 2017 just cemented that.

“100%. In camogie, everyone wants to get into the top four teams. People are really feeling, ‘Well, if we get over Dublin, this is where we can be.’

“That’s tough. We’re a hard team also to beat. Hopefully not many more teams will get over us, we just have to drive on for the next few games.”

There’s a positive vibe in the camp, all is going to plan. With that first win of three under their belt, McCarthy feels her side are in good stead.

There is a gap to be closed still, but that can be done in time.

“It’s the smaller margins that are probably harder to overcome and that’s what we’re doing now and going through now,” she concedes.

“At training, we’re really focusing. I think video analysis is great to show us what the margins are and how to overcome those margins.

“I definitely do think… wait until August and we’ll show it to you then.”

Her refreshing point of view and broadcasting of opinions is put to her in the closing exchanges of the interview. There’s no usual ‘We’ll take each game as it comes’ or other likewise generic media answers that come from Gaelic games players.

It’s ‘We’re going to do what we set out to do….. end of discussion.’ And she stands by that, concluding that she’s not worried about setting public targets or talking her side up.

“No,” she grins.

“At the end of the day, everyone’s here to win. It is one game at a time and stuff but at the end of the day, every team sets goals and that is our goal.”

Dublin players Eimear McCarthy, Dean Rock, Leah Caffrey and Danny Sutcliffe were in Parnell Park last month to kick off the 2018 Dublin GAA Season with team sponsor’s AIG Insurance. 

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Emma Duffy

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