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Down star Niamh points the path to major progress on and off the field

 

By John Campbell

Niamh Mallon has a particular reason for hoping that the advances currently being made in the training and preparation of camogie teams can be brought to a new level.

As Down's top scorer prepares for Sunday's All-Ireland Intermediate Championship final against Cork, 23-year-old Mallon is also very much involved in sports science that is helping to improve fitness and playing standards.

Now working with the Galway-based Orrecco company, Mallon finds herself at the cutting edge of research into enhanced training, nutrition and recovery practices.

And the Portaferry hot-shot reveals that even in the four years that have elapsed since Down last claimed the intermediate title, there have been significant advances within the sport.

Orreco is a global operation specialising in identifying injury predictors, optimal training loads and recovery strategies with NBA and NHL teams in America, European soccer teams, as well as PGA Tour golfers and Formula One motor racing drivers among many others.

Mallon herself is working on a ground-breaking app that will reduce injury and illness in female athletes and has proven understandably popular since its launch last year.

"The Women's Gaelic Players Association has done an awful lot to bring sport science and analytics into camogie over this last couple of years," reveals Mallon.

For the moment, though, Mallon is strongly focused on Sunday's final against a Cork side which has lost the last two deciders.

The Rebel county will undoubtedly bring a great hunger to Headquarters in their efforts to transform their fortunes.

Down looked to be in trouble when they went into the Championship series having lost their five league games, but Martina Rooney stepped into the role of manager and helped to turn the team's fortunes around.

"We had a rocky enough league campaign with players missing through different things," explains Mallon.

"But as they drifted back again we got a solid panel together."

It was a hard-earned victory over Laois that took Down into Sunday's final and now scoring ace Mallon will be joined by players such as the Carr sisters Sarah Louise and Fionnuala as the team bids for glory again.

And Mallon is certainly under no illusions about the task confronting her side.

"Cork are the benchmark, both at senior and intermediate levels in the past number of years," she says.

"They've been beaten in the past two Intermediate finals so they know what it takes to get to Croke Park."

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