Group 1 of the All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship looked like a circus. It’s been very competitive, the games incredibly exciting, the results extremely unpredictable.
Last Saturday did not disappoint. Waterford went to Ennis and won, while Tipp picked up what was, in many ways, a historic win over Cork. In the least absorbing contest, Dublin thundered ahead of Wexford. That 4-14 to 2-11 victory was enough to secure the Dubs third place in the group, their superior score difference allowing them to advance to the quarter-finals at Tipp’s expense.
From Tipp’s perspective, the group’s final skin tone seems terribly unfair. They have shown incredible determination in their last two games, literally defying all odds to come back from the dead and beat Wexford a fortnight ago, before showing a similar spirit to defeat Cork last Saturday.
For Bill Mullaney, who is now stepping down as manager after a five-year tenure, the overriding emotion following Saturday’s game was not disappointment, but rather pride.
“I’m delighted we were able to come to Cork and get a win because that’s all we could control today,” he began.
“Look, I’m so proud of these girls. I mean, we haven’t beaten Cork in a league game since 2008. So to come here to Páirc Uí Rinn and win by one point in such a difficult environment was incredible. We couldn’t have asked for more from the girls. They gave it their all, we won, it’s bittersweet.
Success is ultimately judged on silverware – Mullaney is the first to admit that. But seen more broadly, he and his management have enjoyed a hugely successful spell in charge of Tipperary’s senior camogie team.
They have built and nurtured an exceptional group of players, a panel that has restored Tipperary as a competitive force. For a variety of reasons, that panel has been significantly depleted in 2022, which is part of the reason for Tipp’s early departure from the championship.
“Look, we’re down to a very small panel – we have 21 active players,” said.
“And it’s because of injuries and losses and people leaving and stuff like that. And again, I know it’s just excuses, but the players who showed up today, they just played their hearts – all.
“I think overall we have developed and improved over the course of the championship. We had to win our last two games and we did. Alright, we needed other results to follow our path and they didn’t. But that’s all. You can’t control everything. »
So what’s it like to be a modern inter-county camogie manager? Mullaney admits that no amount of adjectives could truly capture the experience. The pressure is often intense, the expectations often unreasonable, the degree of commitment always exorbitant. But the Newport/Ballinahinch man loved it. He has loved working with this group of players and he knows the future is bright for Tipperary camogie, although this year hasn’t gone to plan.
“It’s stressful, enjoyable, heartbreaking – there’s A-Z of descriptors you can use,” he said.
“But one of the most important things is that there is great satisfaction. But I have to say I enjoyed it over the five years I really did.
“When you’re around people like Cáit Devane and Mary Ryan – some of the best pitchers to ever come out of Tipperary, male or female. Their touch, their control, their score, their dedication to their craft – it’s just unreal.
“And today you saw him again – people like Grace O’Brien, Clodagh McIntyre, Mairead Eviston. It all adds up. There’s so much talent in the county, and there’s even more.