She believes the arrangement represents the most practical form of integration, between the codes as ‘it brings the hurling family together’ on a very important day for the two associations.
“I think everybody would agree it has been a tremendous success. It has raised the profile of the U21 hurling championship and it has definitely improved the profile of camogie,’’ she said yesterday in Croke Park.
“And when you have the quality of the matches we had in last year’s junior and senior Gala finals, I think people were in awe at the standard. That’s good for our game, but it also brought the U21 hurlers into Croke Park and I know from talking to a lot of the players, they are delighted to be here as well.’’
Looking to the future, she expressed optimism that preliminary discussions with President Nickey Brennan and Director-General Paraic Duffy indicated that they were ‘very open’ to carrying on the arrangement.
“If we talk about integration, we need to look at the package as well.
“I think the integration as it’s being interpreted is frightening off some people. I am a great believer in co-operation and working with people together rather than maybe intimidating them with the word integration.
“And I have had calls from both Camogie and GAA clubs that are a bit uncertain where that is going.
“Nickey has been very realistic on this and both he and Paraic Duffy recognise the success of playing the U21 with the camogie final. There was a proposition to do away with the U21 in hurling which I would think would be a pity and they said ‘no’ at Congress.’’
Having persuaded the GAA to agree to the current agreement, she is adamant that it doesn’t take from what has always been ‘camogie’s day.’ It is still that way, she responds, saying that she looks at it ‘differently.’
“I look at it as the day of the hurling family altogether.
“I think it is a terrific stage for both of them. It has not taken from ‘our’ day in any way. I think it has enhanced it and I also think it has enhanced the U21 championship!
“It’s a stage for both of us and I think we have to think differently and be creative as to how we promote our games, both hurling and camogie. For me, that’s thinking outside the box and I think the GAA would think the same. And our sponsor Gala is happy with that.’’
Ms Howard also referred to the participation of former star Joachim Kelly with the Offaly junior team which takes on Clare and former county hurling goalkeeper Liam Donohue (co-manager of the Galway team which takes Cork in the senior final.
“To have an iconic figure like Joachim and Liam is all good for the game. The more high-profile people you have involved in it — whether it is playing or managing — is good for me and I will do anything to promote my sport.’’