This weekend sees the Ashbourne Cup semi-finals take place in Dublin City University with a number of Clare players representing their respective colleges.
Like its hurling counterpart which is the Fitzgibbon Cup, the Ashbourne Cup generates a lot of interest from loyal followers as it gives them a chance to see players at a standard in between club and inter-county level. Similarly, inter-county managers are very interested in the Ashbourne Cup as it gives them an opportunity to study some of their own panellists along with players from opposing counties. Colm Honan and his management team will have their eyes peeled on this weekend’s activity in DCU.
In the first semi-final of the competition, 2014 finalists Waterford Institute of Technology take on National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG). WIT finished top of Group A after defeating DCU and a draw with University College Cork (UCC) saw them take the top spot on scoring difference. Kilkenny duo Ann Downey and Paddy Mullally are in charge of WIT and are hungry to go one step further than last year. A key player in the WIT side is Waterford’s Patricia Jackman who is now one of the most experienced players in the competition and one of the top players in the country and 2014 All-Star nominee Laura Treacy of Cork is another vital cog in the WIT engine
Since changing from UCG to NUIG, the Galway college have yet to get their hands on the Ashbourne Cup. In fact it’s twenty one years since they did, the average age of each player in the competition. NUIG have reached the semi-final stage for the last three years in succession but have come up short on each occasion. Niamh McGrath as been in a rich vein of form as of late and NUIG will be hoping the Tribeswoman will be able to replicate this at the weekend. Clooney/Quin’s Orlaith Duggan is a major contributor to the NUIG side and is in the process of earning a reputation as one of the top players at county level. NUIG will go in as underdogs against WIT who completed a five-in-a-row between 2009 and 2013.
Reigning champions University of Limerick (UL) face off with UCC in the second semi-final. UL have a huge Clare contingent in their ranks with Deirdre Murphy serving as GAA Development Officer with the college while O’Callaghans Mills man John Lenihan is President of the GAA Club. On the pitch, Niamh O’Dea, Laura McMahon, Ellen Horgan, Caitriona Hennessy and Eimear Kelly are the Clare representatives. Along with the Clare girls, Cork’s Julia White and Cait Devane of Tipp and Galway girl Orlaith McGrath are essential players for the team.
Sixmilebridge’s Rachel O’Halloran and Orlaith Lynch of St Josephs Doora/Barefield are part of the UCC squad. The Cork college will rely on the likes of Teresa Ryan from Tipperary and the Mackey twins of Cork. UCC are three titles off UCD’s record of thirty five Ashbourne Cup wins but they will find it difficult against a physically strong UL. Their defence will need to be on red alert in order to quieten UL while they must be extremely accurate up front to knock the current champions out.
Both semi-finals take place on Saturday afternoon in DCU with the final being played on Sunday.