by Daragh Small
Tipperary manager Shane Ronayne believes dual star Orla O’Dwyer’s potential return for the latter stages of the Lidl Ladies National Football League would be a massive boost to their chances of staying up.
Last year’s Division 2 champions, who were relegated from the senior championship ranks, begin their top-flight campaign with a trip to Swinford for a clash with Mayo on Sunday (2.0).
Tipperary have to do without 2017 Intermediate Player of the Year Aisling McCarthy until the championship. She is in Australia with the Western Bulldogs.
However, midfielder Elaine Fitzpatrick is available again. She picked up a cruciate ligament injury three days after Tipperary’s replay victory over Wexford in the Lidl National Football League final two years ago.
And although O’Dwyer misses the opening rounds, Ronayne is confident she can make an impact on her return.
“Orla had a shoulder operation before Christmas and won’t be back until near the end of the league. Everything caught up with her last year. Her shoulder was probably weakened after all she did,” said Ronayne.
“She took the decision to have her operation before Christmas and is easing herself back. She is missing a lot now for UL too but hopefully she will be alright by the end of the end of the league.
“She is a huge player for us because of her power and pace. Hopefully she will come in refreshed after a break. She had no break last year. It will do her the world of good. She has had no real games for two or three months.
“She needed this for her own head space. She was finding it difficult at the end of last year. There was a lot of pressure on her. At the top level it’s very hard. She was dualling with the college as well. She had to play two games in one day last year and one day after another, other times.
“It was different. We were losing a couple of games in the football whereas the camogie were going into an All-Ireland semi-final. It would have been difficult for her mentally.
“She is enthusiastic. She is mad to play again this year. We will work with her and make sure she is not over-used.”
Tipperary are the only intermediate team in Division 1 this term but Ronayne sees this weekend as an opportunity.
“Mayo are going through a transitionary period. They are in the same position as us,” said Ronayne.
“It’s a good start. We are going in and there is not a lot expected. The pressure won’t be on us for the first few games. Hopefully we can nick a win so we are not under pressure.
“We are underdogs but a lot of the teams who are senior know we were probably unlucky to be relegated. We are one of the strong intermediate teams.”
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