By Paul O'Neill
Lorraine Ryan believes Galway's defeat of Wexford earlier in this year’s All-Ireland Camogie Championship will count for little when the sides clash again in today's semi-final.
Galway overcame Wexford by two points when the teams met in the group phase of the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland campaign last month.
Now the rivals are set to go head-to-head once more at Semple Stadium but on this occasion the stakes will be so much higher.
And captain Ryan reckons that last encounter will be scarcely relevant when the re-match with the reigning All-Ireland champions gets underway.
Ryan said: “For different reasons, I do not think you can read too much into the most recent game between Wexford and ourselves.
“That game was the second of four that we each played in the group and while it was quite an important one, it was not a knockout situation – unlike this one which is coming up. We might have won by two points but really the victory could have gone to either side.
“While we did well in the first half, Wexford came back at us in the second and we were relieved to hold on for the win.
“For sure, the fact we won can give us some confidence going into the semi-final but it could be argued that it will provide Wexford with some extra motivation to try and come out on top. Since then both teams have had three games and are probably that bit stronger now so the chances are it will turn out to be another close one that will go right down to the wire.”
Yet the omens did not look too promising for Galway after they began their Championship with a reverse at the hands of Kilkenny.
With Aislinn Connolly and Tara Rutledge unavailable this season and the long-serving Veronica Curtin having quit, some followers of the game thought Galway were going to struggle in the 2013 Championship. But Ryan admits the Kilkenny game helped them to focus on the task.
She added: “Losing to Kilkenny was something of a wake-up call for us.
“We were off the pace that day and knew afterwards we would have to step up our game if we were to challenge for the All-Ireland. But, given it was the opening series, we did not panic and set about trying to improve with every game and certainly winning the next one against Wexford gave us a great boost.”
Last term Galway missed out on qualifying for a third decider in a row when they went down to Cork in the last four.
Galway had been desperate to claim a spot in the final as they sought to try and make up for being beaten in the previous two but they came up short against Cork. And Ryan is hoping Galway will not suffer the same fate once again.
“Last year we simply did not get going in our semi-final," she recalled.
“The game passed us by and while it hurt to be defeated, not performing anywhere near our potential only served to make it worse.
“It was just one of those occasions where things did not click for us and it is hard to explain why that was the case. We had prepared the same as we had for every other game and remember we went into the Cork one with a 100 per cent record in the Championship.
“Now it is fingers crossed we can give it our all against Wexford.
“If we are to possibly win then we understand we will have to put everything into it. We will not want to come away again with regrets about how we played.”
Galway face into the Wexford game on the back of an impressive win over Tipperary in the quarter-finals.
The winning margin was 16 points but Ryan says Tony Ward's Galway outfit will need to do better against Wexford.
Ryan concluded: “We were generally happy with the win over the Tipp.
“Clearly the most important thing was that we did enough to get through to the semi-finals and Tipperary, who have improved this year, gave us a difficult game. Our forwards were flying, which was excellent as it shows we are quite strong up front.
“But we were disappointed that we took a good while to settle into the game and we realise another slow start will not be satisfactory against Wexford who – as the holders – will not want to give up their title without a real battle.”
Fixtures: Saturday: Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Camogie Senior Championship semi-finals:
Cork v Kilkenny (Semple Stadium, 2.0), Galway v Wexford (Semple Stadium, 4.0).
TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Football Senior Championship quarter-finals:
Galway v Tyrone (Kingspan Breffni Park, 4.15), Laois v Monaghan (Kingspan Breffni Park, 6.0).