Donal O’Rourke: 'Effort of Galway camogie stars no different to Limerick hurlers'

The Cappoquin native explains how and why he joined Galway manager Cathal Murray’s backroom team
Donal O’Rourke: 'Effort of Galway camogie stars no different to Limerick hurlers'

Cork's Meabh Cahalane and Laura Treacy tackle Aoife Donohue of Galway during the National League semi-final earlier this year. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

Galway camogie coach Donal O’Rourke is certainly hard at work these days. The former Waterford senior hurler is balancing his time between coaching the Tribeswomen who play All-Ireland senior (versus Tipperary) and intermediate (versus Antrim) championship semi-finals this weekend, and coaching Cork Premier senior hurling side Erin’s Own.

While it is his second season with the Cork club who face county champions Blackrock this day fortnight, the Cappoquin native explains how and why he joined Galway manager Cathal Murray’s backroom team.

It is a demanding schedule that involves three days with Erin’s Own and two with Galway.

“When I was manager of the Waterford camogie team, I always got on very well with Cathal. We would always be on the phone to each other, bouncing ideas off of each other. We had a good relationship.

“I hadn’t been in touch with him since the All-Ireland final last year, I said I would leave him alone for a month or so. Then, in the middle of January, Cathal rang me and he wanted me to come on board with Galway. I said no straight away. I said it wouldn’t be feasible, but he wasn’t taking no for an answer. He asked me to go away and think about it.

“So I went home and I spoke to my wife, she has an important part to play in it obviously. And with two small kids, it was a big commitment. I thought deeply on it, and then I said to myself, you don’t get an opportunity like this too often so I decided I would give it a go. And I am glad that I did.

“To be offered this role, it is a complete and utter honour. I take great pride in being asked to do it. The standard is phenomenal. These girls are elite athletes, the skill level is gone through the roof and it is getting higher. It is down to the strength and conditioning they are doing. Robbie Lane is top-class in Galway. The amount of hours these girls put in ... they are no different to the effort of the Limerick senior hurlers and the Dublin footballers.” 

Cappoquin to south Galway is a sizeable round-trip, even for a man who says coaching is a real passion.

“I live in the outskirts of Cappoquin. We usually train in south Galway, Cathal has always brought it there for me - Gort, St Thomas’, Ballinderreen, Athenry. Where I live, I am 10 minutes from south Tipperary and 10 minutes from east Cork. Once you are in Mitchelstown, you get to Limerick and then you are on the motorway into Gort.

“I head off around half two on a Wednesday. Wherever we would be training, I would be there for half five. We do the first training session with the seniors and then we train the intermediate team. I would be back home around midnight.

“On a Saturday morning, I could be gone at half five, quarter to six because we train at 9 o’clock. Wednesday and Saturday would be our two main sessions.” 

Galway go into Sunday’s senior semi-final against Tipperary in Croke Park having received a bye to the last four. Captain Sarah Dervan is a superb leader, she has already collected the O’Duffy Cup in 2019. However, her colleague in that full-back line Heather Cooney misses out.

“Heather Cooney did her ACL in a league game. She is out for the year and is a massive loss. Sarah is a phenomenal leader. She is a really, really good player. Very comfortable on the ball. Fantastic leader on and off the pitch, one of the mainstays of Galway camogie. I know Tipp very well from my Waterford days. They are a fine side, they have some really good players that will need a lot of minding.

"They are knocking on the semi-final door for the last four seasons. If they keep knocking, the door will be opened. Hopefully, it won’t be Sunday.”

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