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Dublin: 6 °C Tuesday 22 October, 2019
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Her father won two All-Ireland hurling medals and now Offaly camogie star seeks glory

Aoife Kelly will be a key figure for the Faithful against Clare in the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland camogie championship today.

Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

AOIFE KELLY WASN’T born when her father won his two All-Irelands but the swashbuckling Joachim hurled until 1993 and it wasn’t long before the children were indoctrinated in the ways of hurling, Lusmagh and Offaly.

“It was kind of drilled into us all growing up. He was always going to matches, going training” says the now 28-year-old Kelly.

“You’d head off with him to training when he was Offaly selector. I was only born in ’86 so it was after the All-Irelands. But he hurled until ’93.

“He was a physical instructor as well so he used to bring us down to Templemore Garda College and we’d be hitting the pool, doing everything, running around the place. So I suppose it was in the blood.”

Joachim Kelly Offaly 1991 Source: © Billy Stickland/INPHO

Joachim took over the Offaly camogie team at the beginning of 2008. They were a junior outfit then but by the time he finished, at the end of 2011, they had a season in the senior ranks behind them.

“Looking back now it was great to share those four years. We were really successful during those four years. So it’s nice to have those memories. At the time, it was hard enough.

“We kind of had the arguments after matches but we’d never really fall out. I respected his position and he respected mine.

“It’s nice when you look back at the things we did. Getting up in the morning and going up to Croke Park. We had three years in a row going up. It was nice.”

Today’s Liberty Insurance championship tie with Clare in Birr, just over the road from the house Kelly shares with fellow teacher and Offaly player Sheila Sullivan, brings back painful memories of the 2008 All-Ireland premier junior final.

The Bannerwomen snatched the victory with a late goal but Offaly bounced back to take the honours 12 months later and followed up immediately with the intermediate crown in 2010.

Joachim Kelly celebrates with his daughter Aoife Joachim Kelly celebrates with his daughter Aoife after the 2009 All-Ireland triumph. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Clare are just coming off appearing in a first national senior final, and while the league decider proved a chastening experience, it is fair to say that the counties have travelled a remarkable distance in the past six years.

The senior experience has been “up and down” but generally positive. There was an All-Ireland semi-final in 2012, a one-point defeat by Wexford in last year’s quarter-final.

This term, Aidan Franks has had to do without cruciate victim Lorraine Keena, and Triona McDonald, who moved to Dubai for work.

Yet according to Kelly, the target remains the business end of the championship. That is despite shipping a 23-point defeat to league champions Kilkenny last Saturday.

“We didn’t expect to be beaten by such a huge margin. We did go in hopeful enough. We had worked on a few different issues. We knew we were conceding too many goals and tried a few different things but five goals again is too much to be conceding. It was very disappointing but we have to put that one behind us again.

“I’d say we’re very similar to Clare. They were very competitive in all their games last year as well. They were unlucky not to get out of their group. They’re going to be targeting us I’d say to get out of the group but having said that, we’d be looking at them as well as one we can win too. But we’ll give them every respect.

Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“We just want to do ourselves justice and play to our potential. If we can do that, I’d say there won’t be much in it but we could just scrape by.”

Curtailed by camogie so where many of her colleagues are hitting foreign shores, she and housemate, fellow teacher and fellow Offaly player, Sheila Sullivan “are here looking at each other most days waiting for training”. She loves travelling and did Australia, Thailand and New Zealand after graduating.

Unlike other Offaly players too though, they have the time to rest and recuperate from training and games, with a pool just next door so they’re “doing everything by the book”.

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Offaly v Clare, St, Brendan’s Park, Birr, 2.30pm Saturday June 28th

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About the author:

Daragh Ó Conchúir

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