By Michael McMullan
AFTER a hectic 2021 that saw them play in two Ulster and All-Ireland campaigns, Sleacht Néill camogs are feeling their way into a new season.
Ballinascreen man Padraig Groogan has come on board as manager, with Dympna Dougan and dual player Sean ‘Tad’ Cassidy forming part of the management team.
Micky Glover, currently coach to the Down senior team, has been muted as staying on board, but will make a decision when the county season comes to a conclusion.
The Emmet’s have been without their Derry quartet or Aoife Ní
Chaiside, Cliodhna Ní Mhianáin, Sinead and Therese Mellon so far this year.
Sleacht Néill have been fielding three senior teams in recent years. Outside of “38 or 39” players on their senior and intermediate panels, the club have a third team in the Junior League to facilitate a mixture of players looking for social camogie and those coming out of underage looking to find their feet before pushing for a senior spot.
The numbers have been welcome this year, as selector Dympna Dougan explains.
“The girls never got a break at all,” she said of last year’s demanding schedule.
“They (some senior players) took a break at the start of the season, so
we haven’t had a full panel back out yet.
“Some of them are just resting and it gives us a chance to look at everybody. They have a chance to shine and show they are capable of being on the senior team.
“We are lucky in that we have the intermediate team, so girls can move up to make sure we can fulfil our league fixtures.
“Players are able to play both intermediate and senior camogie in the league, until they play a Senior Championship game.”
Sleacht Néill will put their Derry and Ulster titles on the line later in the summer, with a new format in place.
The draw has yet to be made, but the six senior clubs will be divided into two groups of three with the top two advancing to the semi-finals.
In a change this year, Ulster Championship will begin in mid-November, a matter of weeks after the Derry
For now, Sleacht Néill have their focus on keeping the show ticking over until they get their full squad back on board.
“The county should be finished by the end of August, so we’ll have four or five weeks with our full panel,” Dougan explains.
One player that won’t be in the mix is former goalkeeper Jolene Bradley who stepped away at the end of last season after a career that yielded eight Derry, six Ulster and three All-Ireland medals during the club’s unprecedented period of success.
“She is tough shoes to fill and she always kept calm,” Dougan said. “Putting somebody else in is a whole new ball game, but you have to respect her decision as he is getting married this year. You can’t fault the commitment she gave all those years.”