Galway Ladies need strong start in revised championship

Galway manager Tim Rabbitt looking to hit the ground running in Sunday's All Ireland Senior Ladies Football Championship opener.

Galway manager Tim Rabbitt looking to hit the ground running in Sunday's All Ireland Senior Ladies Football Championship opener.

Galway senior ladies footballers make a welcome return to play with the restructured TG4 All Ireland Championship starting this weekend.

With this year's series having been revised due to Covid-19, all teams, divided into four groups of three, will play only two group matches. The four group winners advance to the All-Ireland semi-finals - group 1 v group 2; group 3 v group 4.

Tim Rabbitt's Galway squad, one of four seeded, open their 2020 campaign in group two against Tipperary on Saturday at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick (3pm, live on TG4 ), with round two taking place against Monaghan in Carrick-on-Shannon on November 15.

The ladies squad has become a real force over the last few years, and having lost the final to Dublin last year, manager Tim Rabbitt is targeting another tilt at the All Ireland crown. As a result, he says, Galway need to be firing for this opening fixture, having returned to training mid-August.

"I am really looking forward to the return to championship action, and it will be interesting to see where we are, in what has been a very different season," he says.

"We've had difficulties getting the whole squad together. We've had players who have been close contacts of people with Covid, and while negative, they've missing some weeks. It has been a case of some girls in, some out, so that has been challenging."

Like most sports, training has also been modified to meet new rules - no meeting rooms and no dressing rooms has necessitated all training takes place on the pitch - not always favourable in Irish weather.

However, Rabbitt has been accepting of the changes.

"You just have to roll with it, take the positives and accept it is not going to be perfect," he says.

One positive was the running of the county championship first, which provided game time to players and enabled himself and the selectors to see players in that environment. And since returning to county training, his squad has "knuckled down" well, knowing if they lose one of the games, they are likely to be out of this year's championship.

"It really means that if you don't produce a performance, the championship could be meaningless," he says.

Galway face last year's intermediate champions Tipperary, and with Aishling Moloney, the "stand-out player at the moment" leading their charge, nothing is being taken for granted.

Galway were 1-12 to 0-4 winners before lockdown in the National Football League division one, but Tipperary produced some strong performances against Waterford, Westmeath and Dublin to ensure Galway will be wary of taking them for granted.

Rabbitt's 35 strong squad includes most of last year's panel, with 10 of the current Galway champions Kilkerrin Clonberne involved, including captain Louise Ward, Lisa Murphy, and Olivia and Siobhan Divilly, Lynsey Noone, and Ailish Morrissey. The hugely experienced Sinead Burke, having moved to Armagh, remains involved, while county finalists Claregalway are represented with Charlotte and Fabienne Cooney, and Andrea Trill. Some of those county finalists could be in line to make their championship debuts this weekend.

Sponsored by Supermac's, the senior ladies' squad is: Lisa Murphy (Kilkerrin Clonberne ), Noelle Connolly (Williamstown Glenamaddy ), Sarah Lynch (NA Leitirmore; Shauna Molloy (St Fursey's Headford ), Charlotte Cooney, Fabienne Cooney, Megan Glynn (Claregalway ), Leanne Coen (Corofin ), Kate Geraghty (Tuam Cortoon ), Albhe Davoren (Moycullen ), Andrea Trill, Alanah Griffin (Claregway ), Tracey Leonard, Roisin Leonard, and Dearbhla Gower (Corofin ), Lynsey Noone (Kilkerrin Clonberne ), Lucy Hannon, Sarah Connelly (Dumore McHales ), Chloe Rowe, Chelsea Crowe (Annaghdown ), Sarah Gormally, Siobhan Divilly, Chloe Miskell, Aislish Morrissey (Kilkerrin Clonberne ), Emma Reaney (Caltra Cuans ), Aishling Donnelly (St James ), Aoife Molloy (St Furseys Headford ), Riona Ni Flatherta (NA Leitirmore ), Nicola Ward, Olivia Divilly, Siobhan Fahy, Louise Ward (Kilkerrin Clonberne ), Kate Slevin (Claregalway ), Mairead Seoighe (Clonbur ), Sinead Burke (Armagh Harps ).


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