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Champs on title trail again

Oulart-The Ballagh seek Leinster double next Sunday


OULART-THE BALLAGH are 60 minutes from more silverware as they prepare to face Kilkenny’s Dicksboro in the AIB Leinster Senior Club camogie final at Abbotstown, Dublin on Sunday (2 p.m.).

Colin Sunderland’s side, the reigning All-Ireland champions, will embark on their first contest in defence of the title, and they face a young Dicksboro outfit who dispatched Thomastown in their county championship last four and also sent St. Jude’s packing in the Leinster semi-final.

“They are similar to Thomastown in ways,” Sunderland said. “We played four games in the Leinster and All-Ireland series and a lot of them were high-scoring. But the Thomastown game was low scoring, where in 50 minutes that day we had only scored 1-5.

“We had a great finish to end up with 1-11, but if you look at their scoreline last week it was 0-10 to 0-8 (against St. Jude’s).

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“They beat Thomastown in the county semi-final by 2-7 to 0-11 so they are very tight at the back, they don’t give away many goalscoring opportunities. Typical Kilkenny hurling I suppose, out and out defenders, and their workrate is off the charts.”

While Dicksboro have the advantage of a game under their belts in 2022, Oulart-The Ballagh have been resting and waiting.

They had some time to dwell on the success as they took a longer than initially anticipated three weeks break after the All-Ireland, owing to some Covid issues. However, they have been back grafting in recent weeks.

“You are sitting down there Christmas Day looking at a repeat of the All-Ireland final, it was only when you got time since with weddings and celebrations in the middle,” Sunderland said.

“It was definitely nice to reflect on it and look at what we achieved.

“In the space of five weeks we won a county, a Leinster and an All-Ireland, and it was every week so you never had much time to reflect on any game that you won really. After winning the All-Ireland we finally got a bit of a gap, so it was nice to sit back and enjoy it.

“The parish in general, as well as the team, was hit hard by Covid. I suppose it kind of put us on the back burner a little bit.

“The week after Christmas we started giving them their own bit of work to do and stuff like that, so they got out and did their own runs.

“It worked out that it was three weeks off, away from the collective stuff, and three weeks to prepare for the match.”

After maybe coming in under the radar nationally at the end of 2021, everyone will now be looking at Oulart-The Ballagh as favourites in the coming weeks.

However, they are just enjoying the fact that they get another chance, as their big goal of securing a county title has already been achieved.

“I’m not saying it’s bonus territory but it was fantastic, brilliant, we won a Leinster title and All-Ireland final but you have to rewind a little bit further and understand why we are here, and the reason we are here is we beat Rathnure in a county final before the Leinster and All-Ireland,” the manager said.

“Our ultimate goal in 2021 was to win the county final and we achieved that.

“Obviously we are going to go strong to win a Leinster and possibly more if we can get that far, but we always treat it as a game by game situation and it would be an absolutely fantastic achievement to win another Leinster.

“There’s no pressure, we are doing it as Leinster and All-Ireland champions. We are going to enjoy it, embrace it and give it one hell of a go.”

If Oulart-The Ballagh, who have a fully-fit squad to choose from, get past Dicksboro on Sunday, they will face Munster champions Scariff/Ogonnelloe three weeks later.

The Clare club beat Drom and Inch from Tipperary by 1-8 to 1-7 in their provincial decider last weekend.