It’s been a strange old week in camogie circles, one that began with the lingering threat of strike action, a potential civil war later averted through democratic means, and then came one giant leap towards equality, with Minister for Sport Jack Chambers announcing female inter-county players would receive parity when it came to government grants.
And now, on the eve of opening day in the Littlewoods Ireland Camogie Leagues, Amy O’Connor is just ready to start playing.
“We’re over it now,” says the Cork captain. “We just want to move on and play the games. That’s where we belong – on the pitch.”
The threat of a player boycott was considerable if the Camogie Association forged ahead with plans to sandwich the club championship between the inter-county league and championships, with 82% of players voting for a split season. Their wish came true on Tuesday after 53% of clubs voted in favour of it, with the club championships pushed back to the end of the inter-county season.
“Democracy has won,” says O’Connor. “In Cork, we made our position very clear on the whole thing and we were very clear on our intentions.”
Cork manager Paudie Murray told the not getting ready for league games at this stage” due to the players’ concerns, and O’Connor admits the whole episode created “unnecessary stress, unnecessary pressure.”his side was “
Same goes for the situation surrounding dual players, with a motion passed at congress that the Camogie Association will facilitate “as far as practical” the dual player and formally recognise them in partnership with the Ladies Gaelic Football Association (LGFA).
“Communication is needed between the organisations. It’s just a headache the players don’t need.”
Amalgamating the various organisations with the GAA has long been touted and it’s a move the four-time All-Ireland winner strongly supports.
“That can only be a positive thing if we’re all under the one umbrella, with all communication under one organisation.”
O’Connor was “absolutely thrilled” at the news inter-county player grants will be equalised across genders, though there’s still some distance left to run on the equality front with research by Littlewoods Ireland revealing 89% of Irish people cannot name a current inter-county camogie player.
“I’d say 100% of the population could pick out a male inter-county footballer or hurler so that is disappointing. But I hope that stat will trigger people into saying, ‘hang on, we need to support women a bit more.’”
Cork welcome Tipperary to Páirc Uí Chaoimh for Saturday’s opener, but with Julia White and Pamela Mackey absent and Gemma O’Connor now retired, their form remains an unknown entity.
“This weekend’s games had so much uncertainty around them but we prepared as best we could,” says O’Connor. “It’s a really young panel and we’ll have to see how we get on. We’ll miss the girls terribly and hopefully Pam and Julia will come back next year.”
As a qualified pharmacist, one who applied to assist with the vaccine roll-out, O’Connor is well-placed to balance the desire for a return of crowds to games this summer with the need to protect public health, and she advises patience among fans.
“Let’s not rush this process,” she says. “We’ve done it for this long and we just need to hold firm a bit longer. If that means no-one can go to a game during the summer the option is there to live stream the games.