Meath’s Ellen Burke offloads possession despite pressure from Offaly’s Jane Lowry during Saturday’s National Camogie League Div 2A clash at Ashbourne. Photo: David Mullen/

“When they got the ball and ran at them, you could see they were causing Offaly trouble”


Gary Cole watched on as his and Tom Moloney's side disposed of a very good Offaly side in their last league game of the season. The pair have done an excellent job in keeping these girls playing at a very high level despite a high turnover of players from last year's squad and losing their manager and Gary's brother, Neil Cole midway through the league campaign due to health concerns.

Following Meath's emphatic victory, Gary explained to the Meath Chronicle how an early goal was crucial in getting Meath off to a good start in the contest with Offaly.

"We came out of the blocks well with an early goal. We have been struggling a bit in that department so far this year. We have had a poor goal-scoring record. Up to today, we have only scored one goal in the league. To score two today was a bonus and it lifts the heads. It takes a lot of work to get up the field and score three points but when you can get a goal it's massive and today it got us out of the starting blocks quickly and got our confidence up" said Cole.

"Offaly have had some great results in the league. Our attitude of getting stuck into them probably caught them out a bit. We wanted to avoid what happened against Carlow the last day, we took our foot off the pedal in the second half of that game and nearly lost it so we wanted to ensure that didn't happen today."

Meath had an excellent display from their forwards with five of the six starting forwards getting on the scoresheet. Gary was keen to sing the praises of his six forwards and he started by complimenting the excellent performances of the Connolly twins from Killyon.

"I thought Katie and Grace (Connolly) on the two wings were excellent. Their pace is their forte I suppose and when they got the ball and ran at them, you could see they were causing Offaly trouble. Emma Hannifin and Aoife (Carey) were good on the inside line, and Amy Gaffney had a kind of roaming role which she relished as well. Amy probably didn't get as much ball as she would have liked but when she did get she was hard to stop. Ciara (Foley) was excellent as well so a very good performance from our forwards today."

Cole and Moloney made several positional changes for Saturday afternoon's clash, one noticeable one when the team was announced was the move of Ellen Burke into midfield and Maeve Clince into centre-back. That move paid off as both Clince and Burke performed excellently in their revised roles.

"We are trying a few different things. We decided to move Ellen into the middle today, she has good hands and is well able to supply a good ball into the forwards. Maeve did very well as well sitting in in centre back. She did the job that Ellen usually does. Ellen gave us a different option in midfield and it was nice to see that our defence was not affected as a result of that move."

Finally, Cole finished off by explaining how the management team is happy with how the team is progressing ahead of the championship.

"We are fairly happy with where we are at the moment. We have a big panel and you want to try and give as many girls game time as possible and have a look at every one. Saying that, you are trying to look for a championship team at the moment. We have the provincials coming up, we will gear towards that, and at the moment it is all going well."

Maggie Randle, on her own club grounds at Donaghmore Ashbourne, wrapped up another league campaign between the sticks for Meath camogie on Saturday afternoon. Speaking after the win over Offaly, Randle explained how it has been a mixed-league campaign for the royals but that it was nice to finish off with a victory.

"We have had a bit of a turbulent league. We have sort of been rebuilding the last couple of weeks. Losing Neil Cole halfway through wasn't the plan but the team has come together really well. It is nice to beat a good Offaly side to finish off. They are only down from Div 1, so we knew we would have a battle coming out. It was relentless and it was tough hurling but it was fantastic to get the win."

Meath had a fantastic defensive performance on Saturday and Randle is delighted to have such a strong defensive unit in front of her protecting her posts.

"It was a really good performance from our defence. We only conceded five points. They have been great throughout as well. We have only let in three goals in the whole league. Our defence works well as a unit. They are rock-solid, they are constantly getting hooks and blocks in, and are a fantastic group to have in front of you."

Randle and Meath now turn their attention towards Championship and the Donaghmore/Ashbourne netminder is looking ahead towards what will be a busy period for the Royals.

"I think things are starting to come into place. Girls are pushing hard in training. We will have four or five tough weeks of training. We have Dublin in the first round of the Leinster. I think at one point we are going to have a run of six games in seven weeks. That is going to be a tough challenge. It will be a full squad effort. Right now though we are just looking to get out of the winter hurling and looking forward to the summer."