The trialling of new rules in the Littlewoods Camogie Leagues has earned broad approval and two of the stars of the sport joined the chorus of goodwill ahead of the opening round of action on Saturday and Sunday.
Heather Cooney, who won League and Championship honours with Galway in 2019, and Katie Power, who has known glory in both but had to play second fiddle to the Tribeswomen in both competitions last year, exuded positivity about the willingness to modernise camogie.
Six rules will be trialled, including an official allowance of ‘minimal contact’ from the side once an attempt is being made to gain possession.
Dropping the hurley and hand-passing a goal will no longer be allowed while a quick puckout and taking a free from the hand inside your own 45 has been approved.
A player deemed to be fouling persistently will have her name noted by the referee as a warning prior to the use of yellow and red cards, while a penalty cannot be taken inside the 20m line and will only be defended by one player.
As an All-Star defender, Cooney is particularly pleased about the hand-pass goal but is positive generally about what she interprets as an understanding of the development of players, and the desire to improve the speed of the game.
“We’ve been looking to change things for the last number of years and I think it’s good that players and officials have come together to try and change things for the better and try new things out,” says Cooney.
“It’ll be interesting to see how some of them go. Some of them are just technical, the penalty and that, they’re straightforward enough whereas the others throughout the game it’ll be interesting to see how they go.
“Not dropping the hurl... being a back, I’m in favour of not being able to handpass a goal.
It will be interesting to see if the free from inside the 45 that can be taken from the hand might lend to the speed of the game.
"If you’re coming out with the ball as a back, it will stop that cynical foul to get the other team to set up. We’ll be able to continue with the game if we see something is on and yet if there’s nothing on, you have the opportunity to stand and take your free.”
This, as Power details, will bring about an improved spectacle, which is crucial as an attraction to young girls and women, and as a commercial brand too.
“Everybody’s looking forward to being able to show ourselves as athletes” says Power.
“Now you’re allowed tackle a lot harder. The backs are flying into the forwards at training whereas before, they had to, not stand off but be real clever. You couldn’t hit hard before because it was going to be a free, whereas now there’ll be a lot more hard-hitting.
“Last year’s championship was a lot more physical (than the year before). I noticed a huge difference in it. So I think this year will hopefully be another level.
“The quick free should speed things up in terms of not bringing out a goalie or not bringing back Denise (Gaule).
"It will be hard on the refs to adjust to it too but there should be more attacks and more scores which is good.
We want camogie to grow and the way to do that is to make it a spectacle. Last year, people talked about the All-Ireland as a spectacle and they were almost shocked.
“Hopefully the rules do carry through to the championship if they’re all positive.
“The WGPA reps are going to be giving in feedback once a month. I can’t see it not being positive.”
Cooney doesn’t ever see camogie having the level of contact that exists in hurling but was heartened that the players were being listened to.
“We’re the ones playing the game I suppose and it’s important that voices have been heard and that they are taking them on board and making changes with everyone on board … players, officials and whoever else into play.”