By Paul O'Neill
Jill Horan believes Tipperary are on the up again in camogie – but thinks it could take another two years before they will be ready to challenge for the game’s top honours.
Tipp used to be one of the main forces in camogie and they won plenty of silverware to underline the fact.
This included a haul of five All-Irelands in six years beginning in 1999 – but it is five seasons since the Premier County even featured in the semi-finals of the Championship.
Now, though, Tipperary are aiming to bridge that gap as they prepare to take on Galway in a Liberty Insurance All-Ireland quarter-final at Portlaoise on Saturday.
And Horan, who starred in the last Tipperary team to win the All-Ireland nine years ago, is convinced they have started to turn the corner as the rebuilding of the squad after a host of retirements continues.
“We had a great group of players when we were doing well but unfortunately most have moved on and that is the main reason why we have struggled a lot.
“It is hard to replace such talented players because while you might have players with potential, it takes time for them to find their feet at this level.
"It might be another two years before Tipperary are able to push for All-Irelands again but the prospects are encouraging"
“Luckily Tipperary have had some successful underage sides in recent years and quite a few of these players have progressed to the seniors. But it is quite a step up in terms of the intensity and speed and you cannot expect anyone to adjust to that change quickly.
“Thankfully the signs are that things are beginning to gel more for us as these players get more experience.
“For sure we are still a team in transition but I feel we are moving in the right direction. It might be another two years before Tipperary are able to push for All-Irelands again but the prospects are encouraging and there is a solid platform there now.”
Tipperary squeezed through to the knockout stages of the Championship by winning their final game in the group phase against Dublin. That was after they lost their other two outings to Cork and Offaly.
But Horan admits a victory over Galway would give Tipperary a massive shot in the arm as they look to get back to the top.
“Even though Galway are the favourites, we will definitely go into this game to try and get the win,” added the midfielder.
“In a way we have nothing to lose and if we were to get through it would be something of a bonus when you consider we have quite a youthful squad. We are delighted to be still in the Championship because we found ourselves in a difficult position after the first two games.
“When we played Cork and Offaly we performed quite well in the first half in both games but could not manage to keep the momentum going after the break. We knew we would have to play to our best for the full 60 minutes when we met Dublin and luckily it worked out well for us.
“Now we will have to lift our game against Galway. We have not played them competitively for two years but we know how hard it promises to be as they have been more to the fore in the Championship in recent years and have the edge on us when it comes to experience.
“However we are very much looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead.”
Earlier this year Horan was not certain if she would be involved in the current Championship as she took time out to consider whether she would return to action with Tipperary.
Nine years after bursting on the inter-county scene, she was unsure about whether to resume with Conor Ryan’s team.
But Horan – who along with Julie Kirwan is the only member of the squad to hold an All-Ireland medal – is glad she opted to make a comeback for at least one more campaign.
Horan recalled: “I did not feature in this season’s National League because I was not sure if I was going to play again for the county.
“It was a case of weighing things up and seeing whether I felt I would leave it behind or give it a go once more.
“I chatted with Conor and our trainer Geraldine Kinane and afterwards decided to re-join the squad. I returned because I thought that I still had something to offer the county – especially in terms of experience to hopefully help the younger players.
“All in all it has gone well for me and I am pleased that I came back into the fold.”
Saturday: Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Camogie Senior Championship quarter-finals: Galway v Tipperary (Portlaoise, 3.30), Offaly v Wexford (Portlaoise, 1.45).