Last weekend Offaly senior hurlers were dismantled by a more determined Laois side at O’Moore Park, which led Offaly to drop into the round robin series of the Leinster championship for 2016. Is this is the final wake up call Offaly needs as a hurling county?
For the third year in a row we had qualified for the Fr.Meachair Cup. Being in the college for 8:20 was a struggle and I was the only one late (nothing new there). Getting off the bus at Carpenters, I looked around at how good we all looked in our matching red and black gear looking like a team, a family and how lucky I was to have such a great team of players and friends on and off the pitch. Tearing into breakfast we talked about the day that was coming and the battle with St.Pats that was looming in the near future. We were only an hour travelling but it felt like minutes passing by. A pit stop at the shop to refuel our sugar levels as our manager Sean who didn’t feel so good ran to the loo.
Nerves it must have been but we had a huge mission at hand, and nothing could blur our vision of this. Last year’s captain Louise posted an image of me kissing the cup to our 2014 whatsapp and we joked about if we won we would send her back the same image. On the bus Nadina and I talked about how we were the “zimmerframes” the older girls on the team, how in first year we looked up to Ruth, Bart and Lucy as the “zimmers” and now here we were, time passing us way too quickly from that first weekend in Limerick.
The dressing room was the same; the buzz of the new jersey’s being wore for the first time, Nadina getting her back rubbed as usual and Quinny trying to put some order on us throwing us out our sponsored lucazade and our jersey’s. When Sean would enter, we would go silent. Awaiting the team you could almost hear a pin job as we were assigned our roles and positions for the game. We took to the field doing our warm up in the three stages Sean had created for us to be prepared for the game, but the atmosphere was different. So much talk, encouragement, calling for the ball and this change was a hunger and determination I had never seen us like this. Before the game we talked about wearing this jersey for the last time, playing with each other for the last time. This is where we wanted to be, and now it was our time to prove ourselves.
St.Pats had the small breeze in the first half although we started strong pointing from our first attack, but this never fazed St. Pats. The whole game was tip for tap. We managed to push ourselves ahead but they scored a goal, we would reply and then we were ahead, goal and they were ahead, point and we were ahead and Pats always answered never giving up. We had created so many goal chances but couldn’t reach the net, Aoife ‘bear in the square’ in hibernation. Panicking in the closing stages we were awarded a 21yard free as I shouted to Captain Siobhan to come up the field to hit the three pointer we so desperately needed, as Finola looked at me “calm down girl” in her Cork accent “we’re ahead, relax”. Finally we went two ahead and defend like our lives depended on it. When the final whistle blew we sighed with relief. We had managed to reach the final again. As we hugged and congratulated each other, Centre-forward Denise rushed off to prepare for her 21st in Wexford that night and Siobhan called us for our cool down. During our cool down we heard stories of how Quinny, Mary and Sarah Jayne took pictures during the game, Mary in the middle of capturing some great shots when Sean called her to warm up. Never a dull moment with the ITC camogie team.
Before watching the second Fr. Meachair semi-final between GMIT and St.Mary’s Belfast, we had a quick team selfie to post our success so far. Their game was after ours, half forward Nicole O’Neill (St.Mary’s) causing huge trouble for the GMIT backs and keeper Colleen Callanan who was playing a stormer between the posts. Half time entertainment was messing with the Mary, Aisling, Siobhan and I playing ‘keepy upies’ and inventing our new game of passing which kept our players occupied awaiting the second half. Like the animals we are, hunger got the best of us as we were let loose in the big city to find DCU and more importantly food. We often declared ourselves as the stupidest team we knew (Sean can provide examples with all the technical drills we could never complete) and I think was shown once again as we got lost momentarily looking for the canteen. After a quick bite to eat we returned to the pitch catching the end of the first half of the Ashbourne Semi-Final between WIT and NUIG, once the half time whistle blew we had had enough, the legs were sore and eyes tired as we boarded the bus to find our beds for the night.
After a short spin out of the town (in which Nicole somehow managed to decide she was going on a J1) we came to the travel lodge, bundling up all our belongings we queued for our room and to hear who we were staying with. Mischief began immediately as Sarah Jayne, Chloe and Miriam’s room key went missing. Sitting around watching the rugby Niamh, Rebecca and I discussed everything from our county teams, the night out tomorrow to our J1 plans to the game tomorrow. Eventually ‘SJ’ returned for her key and invited us to go find the rest of the team. We went wandering around the halls to find the majority of the team in Nicole, Shannon and Rebecca’s room. Our mouths watered looking at the menu as Johnny Sexton was being patched up on the TV. We exchanged yarns telling the girls about playing in Belfast the year before, staying in a tiny hostel room to our new first year’s amusement. Creeping on Paul Murphy’s Instagram and the infamous Johnny Nevin was never far from our conversations. Slagging about boys, Valentine’s (for the day that was in it), comparing our teams over the years, telling stories and secrets as we all grew closer if that even was possible.
We waited for food for what felt like forever, Mary Walsh and I begging Aisling for “even a lick” of her pizza, as the smell was almost satisfying our hunger. The table behind us was first to be served, Siobhan claiming dibs on the first pepperoni pizza. I didn’t even like my food; I was just so hungry I think all of us were. Sarah Jayne finished her burger in seconds, while Becky who had got her burger first wasn’t even half way through. Eventually the plates were cleaned and full bellies meant tired heads. In Nadina’s room after dinner we joked and messed. Nadina gave out free massages using the tanning moisturiser on Aoife (her calves looking a small bit browner on Sunday alright). Reading the new dare cards for the following night which included “Get a strangers number and ring them in the pub looking at them”, “ Ask a man for a cigarette and hand it back to him saying you don’t smoke” and “Get down on your hands and knees and act like you lost something”. More shenanigans continued as we grabbed the top of the couch, Aisling Boyhan and I ran around the halls hitting surprised players Caoimhe and Shannon until she deserted me when she seen someone coming up the hall as I attempted to lug the red 6ft long cushion back to her room. Some waited for the physio slots, others headed off to bed after a long day, Aisling and Nicole asleep since dinner.
Word was put out we had to be up for 9 for breakfast and we were all hoping that it would be ready on time for us when we arrived to the restaurant. We headed for the leaba, charging up our phones and cleaning off the day’s make up. Once we lay in bed it was almost as if we had got another lease of life in our room as Niamh, Becky and I stayed up chatting until I said “Right lads, I’m going asleep” it was almost as if I switched myself off as no sooner than I had said it I had woken up from an amazing sleep on the bottom half of a red pull out couch bed.
Ok so I haven’t done an opinion piece of these in a while, but here it goes. Pre-season debate allows GAA supporters, players; county boards etc discuss all the things in the GAA that went wrong the previous year. GAA Issues are highlighted, discussed and argued about but nothing much happens in the long run. Continue reading
Am I the only one that believes that the county players should have a say in county board meetings and question what is being done at all levels? What if Tom, Dick or Harry never played at county level and did not realise that to become the best team in the country doesn’t just take a good trainer or training, but that the senior team is fed with hungry underage.
In this day and age county boards play a huge role in the development and progression of a team in championship, but taking this year as an example, there has been a great deal of bad press for county boards and their county board officials.
I firmly believe that the GAA should watch over the actions of county boards and not allow teams to deplete or fail to put underage structures in place. Unfortunately it has occurred in a number of counties this year alone, Westmeath being hit the hardest and as a result of this, their county players suffering at the decisions of their county board.