As the light shines on another camogie controversy, once again the players find themselves on the wrong end of the stick. As the dispute continues with 2014 and 2015 All-Ireland champions, players are feeling very let down by their beloved game. Finola Neville is one of the nine Cork Camogie players that is currently up in arms with the Camogie Association over their application of regrading from senior level to intermediate level.
Neville is one of the luckier ones. Still in her college years, the St.Catherines club player captained her IT Carlow teammates in the CCAO Purcell Cup semi-final on Valentines Weekend against Maynooth. The talented forward also travelled from her Cork placement to Ballyhaunis Mayo to line out in black and red along along with travelling to a number of IT Carlow practise games and training sessions. This may be the only competitive game time she will get at a national level if the decision is not overturned. But for the other eight girls in question it’s not the case. The nine players — Amy Lee, Finola Neville, Katelyn Hickey, Lauren Callinan, Leah Weste, Niamh Ní Chaoimh, Sarah Buckley, Sarah Fahy and Rebecca Walsh all won All-Ireland medals last September but did not play a single minute of inter-county senior championship camogie in 2015 and now face another year with no championship game time to their names. Neville feels that “They are taking away the opportunity for 9 girls to represent their county. It is frustrating to think that for such a small particular, they are happy with the possibility that we will not play this year.”
Under Rule 30.1 (c), the nine players who were part of the Cork Camogie senior panel but did not feature during the championship were required to apply to be deemed eligible for intermediate in 2016. The application forms to be regarded were sent to the Cork Camogie secretary last month and then forwarded to the Camogie Association for approval. Nine of the eleven applications were rejected by the Camogie Association as the forms were not signed in pen. In the letter of rejection, the Camogie Association Ard Stiúrthóir Joan O’Flynn stated that “Ard Chomhairle did not grant your request as it was noted that your form was not personally signed by you as required”. Cork argue that precedent has been set that this year the players undertook the same procedure as the previous year. Finola and her teammates are fighting because they want game time and to play for their county, “Main issue here obviously is playing camogie and not the particulars of signing a form or not. I have checked my form for regrading last year and it was exactly the same as I did last year, but it was no problem last year so where was the change in the rules this year.”
A very passionate, upset Finola stressed how her love for camogie currently has a dark cloud lingering over her future as a Cork Camogie player.
“This year if we do not make the senior starting team (a team that is quite difficult to break into) we will have no opportunity to play camogie this year. All we want to do is play camogie. When we give so much to the game, travelling around the country, training nearly every night of the week with gym sessions and what not and for the Camogie Association to turn around and don’t accept our regrading, it’s not really promoting the game we all love.”
Once the Intermediate captain that lead her side to Munster success, Neville was hopeful from the development and strides that were being made last year at intermediate level which have been absent for a number of years. “None of us are allowed play intermediate this year which takes 9 players from that team last year which is a pity as we were starting to build a good base at that level too, a first for Cork to make an All-Ireland intermediate semi in a good few years. We competed well last year and possibly lacked experience when it came down to the semi-final stage.”
To add to the disruption of her camogie career, Finola finds herself on the side-line again watching on but this time she’s in full health and can’t do anything about it. “I did my cruciate end of 2013 so 2014 season was out basically. Last year was first proper full year back. All the work and effort I had to put in, I was doing rehab for that bloody knee every day of the week it was a full time job, all that was just to get back to play camogie.”
As it stands, Cork intermediates future is up in the air and with Croke Park stating that the decision cannot be appealed, the Cork intermediates have been deprived of over half their experienced and gifted starting team for the 2016 campaign. As a result, the Division two national league has no Cork team lining out for their first two rounds. Neville stressed that Camogie cannot expect minors to replace the senior girls while playing their own grade; “We have had to pull out of two league games already as we couldn’t field. One was against Antrim last weekend and Meath this weekend. The team has a lot of minor’s already from last year but need a bit of experience too for that level, but minors have their own competition at their own age level to concentrate on. If the Camogie Association don’t change, I can’t see Cork playing any league.