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“It’s going to be a busy few weeks” Orlagh Nolan ahead of their Leinster Championship campaign

“It’s going to be a busy few weeks” Orlagh Nolan ahead of their Leinster Championship campaign

Thu, 18th April 2024

By Paul Keane

Orlagh Nolan didn't watch the recent National League final between Armagh and Kerry, partly because of how painful it would have been and partly because there was a big soccer match on the TV.

We'll get back to the soccer angle but let's first focus on the pain. Dublin finished in third position in the Division 1 table and missed out on a final appearance by an agonising one-point margin.

Nolan did watch the earlier Division 2 decider between Kildare and Tyrone, with this Sunday's Leinster championship opener against Kildare at Parnell Park in mind, but she happily skipped the other game.

A slow start to this year's league ultimately cost Dublin who lost to Kerry and Meath in January before finding themselves nine points adrift at half-time against Mayo in Round 3

"After losing the first two matches I think the word 'relegation' was thrown around a bit," winced Nolan, speaking at an event organised by Staycity Aparthotels who are supporting Dublin GAA in all four codes for the next five years.

"To be down then so many points at half-time against Mayo, it was probably still worrying but it was nice to grind that one out. Then we ground out a win over Galway too."

Dublin didn't stop there, of course. After beating Mayo by seven points in that Round 3 encounter, a dramatic 16-point swing on the scoreboard, their campaign suddenly ignited. They won their last five games in all, concluding the campaign by putting 7-10 on the board against eventual champions Armagh.

All of which has left Nolan and her Dublin colleagues in a very positive frame of mind heading into Sunday's novel provincial championship clash with neighbours Kildare.

"It's an extra game in Leinster with Kildare coming up," said attacker Nolan, referencing Kildare's impressive 2023 campaign which yielded promotion. "Kildare are probably on a high too. They won the intermediate last year and are unbeaten in the league so I'd say they'll be coming in on a high, similar to Meath and Kerry when they made the step up. It didn't faze them at all. So Kildare will be hoping they can make that step up and consolidate that position at senior level.

"It's going to be a busy few weeks. I think if we were to make the Leinster final we'd be out four weeks in a row."

Holding onto ultra experienced forward duo Hannah Tyrrell and Sinead Aherne has given Dublin more than a fighting chance of going deep into this year's Championship again. Nicole Owens is back too following a long-term injury. All three will provide stiff opposition to Nolan for a starting spot in attack.

What's most impressed Nolan, not just this season but last year too, is how young players have jumped in at the deep end for Dublin and thrived.

"You had the likes of Niamh Crowley and Niamh Donlan, girls who when they were needed put in big performances at a stage when it was either sink or swim," said Nolan of their successful 2023 Championship.

Nolan's own form has been strong too. She scored a memorable point in last August's landmark All-Ireland triumph over Kerry. In that first-half against Mayo more recently, when things were going awry, she pinched an important score too.

"To have the players around you that I do, they make it easier," said Nolan.

To get back to the soccer angle, that is a sport that Nolan has also excelled in. She was previously an Irish U-19 international, playing in teams including Katie McCabe and Denise O'Sullivan, before packing it in to focus on club and county commitments but is hoping to revive her career with Peamount United after this year's Championship.

"I tried to play with them last year but unfortunately my signing didn't go through with the FAI, I probably signed a little too late," explained Nolan. "They had a great year last year as well. I think the plan will be to focus on Dublin up until, hopefully, August and go back and play with Peamount again."

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