Walsh and Kilkenny eager to hit the new season running

Defending camogie league champions rarely lack for motivation and this year will be no different

There's not much need to ask Grace Walsh if Kilkenny take the league seriously.

A quick browse through the roll of honour over the last decade and it's fairly obvious that they do – five Division One titles in that time, including last June's triumph over Galway, bringing them to within one of Cork's record total of 16.

"We take it as seriously as the championship, you want to get the best out of yourself, you have to put everything in to it," she says at the launch of the 2022 Littlewoods Ireland Camogie Leagues which get under way on Saturday.

Kilkenny's first opponents are Limerick who pushed them close in last year's quarter-finals, three points the margin between them in the end.

Walsh reckons the Munster side are among a number of counties whose development in recent years is widening the pool of contenders for camogie’s major honours and strengthening the game.

And that pool needs widening. Since 2013, only Kilkenny, Galway and Cork have reached the All-Ireland final, the same three also dominating the league where no other county has reached a final since Clare in 2014.

“But I think over the last four or five years all the teams have really, really improved,” says Walsh, who has two All-Irelands and two All Stars to her name.

“Tipp were in the semi-finals last year and were probably unlucky not to reach the final, they’ve been knocking on the door. The same goes for Limerick – when we played them last year it was one of our toughest games.

"Clare are on the rise, Wexford and Waterford too, they both reached the All Ireland quarter-finals last year, so I think there are plenty of counties now getting to the one level, which is so exciting for camogie."

And if they’re in need of inspiration, she says, they just need to recall what Meath achieved in another code last year.

An inspiration

"Absolutely insane," she says. "I remember being at home with my parents and my brothers watching them in the semi-final against Cork, we were shouting at the telly like we were actually from Meath. It was unbelievable. And then up against Dublin. "

“You’d nearly be emotional watching it, you were just so happy for them. They are an inspiration for other teams – if you put in the work and put in the effort, anything can happen on the day, you can come out on top. I was tempted to go up to Meath after the final and join in on the celebrations, but work stopped me,” she laughs.

Kilkenny, like Dublin’s footballers, were dethroned as All-Ireland champions last year, losing by a point to Cork in the semi-finals, having reached the previous five finals.

“And we’re proud of that consistency, some of us have been in seven or eight finals in both the league and championship. We didn’t win as many as we would have liked, but it’s about the journey too, it’s about the great memories being made. There’s great heart in our team, we have a very special bond.”

Not even “the winter slog and the wet pitches” since Kilkenny returned to training in early January dampened her enthusiasm for being back in action with her county, she says.

“Raring to go, it’s good to be back, the mood is good in the camp, everyone’s buzzing for Saturday to kickstart the league.”

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