New Cork captain rues missed chance to put camogie in the national spotlight

New Cork captain rues missed chance to put camogie in the national spotlight
Amy O'Connor, Cork and St Vincent's camogie star. Cork. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

CORK camogie captain Amy O’Connor believes the association missed a trick by holding back the inter-county championship until October.

Just like their GAA and LGFA counterparts, club competitions will be the main focus for camogie players across the country as live sport emerges from the shadows in the coming weeks.

Whilst the 2019 All-Star is thrilled to be back in the saddle with St Vincent’s, she felt there was massive marketing potential behind a summer start to the county game.

“I thought the Camogie Association had a huge opportunity to try and showcase our game, by maybe putting inter-county first. I know there’s a lot of people who have come out and said that. I would have thought that at the beginning,” says O’Connor.

“With no other senior men’s games on, maybe we would have been showcased on RTÉ on The Sunday Game. It just would have been a great opportunity for people to see our game, because no other games probably would have been televised.

“I think maybe there was an opportunity there. I also think that it might have been easier to manage. At inter-county level, you have more people involved, in terms of managing sanitisation of equipment. If that’s how it was going to go. We’re just happy to be back to playing anything and I’m happy to be back with my club.”

Now that Cork’s All-Ireland championship campaign is set to take place in the winter months — when conditions may be testing — O’Connor is adamant the games will need to be hosted in the very best stadia the GAA has to offer.

“There’s no way we can go and play a championship match at some of the camogie grounds around the country because it’s not going to be a good spectacle. It’s not going to be good for the game.

“I think there’s a responsibility on whoever arranges the venues to ensure Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Nowlan Park, Semple Stadium, Croke Park and the Gaelic Grounds are going to be used. They should be using the main stadiums.”

Before the coronavirus pandemic struck O’Connor was enjoying a whirlwind opening to 2020. She was named team skipper by manager Paudie Murray at the beginning of the year and subsequently guided the Leesiders towards back-to-back National League wins against Waterford and Kilkenny.

As a member of a junior club, O’Connor couldn’t have dreamt that this particular opportunity would come her way. However, the policy of the senior champions selecting the county captain was discontinued in recent years and this opened the door for the Knocknaheeny native.

She is following in some pretty big footsteps; Gemma O’Connor, Aoife Murray, Ashling Thompson and Anna Geary have previously filled the key leadership role.

“It’s a huge honour for me and for my club to captain Cork. We’ve such a young team as well. I’m 24 this year and I’d say I’m one of the oldest on the team at this stage. There’s a core group of us around my age,” O’Connor says.

“Gemma O’Connor is a person I would have looked up to hugely, growing up playing camogie. I’ve a hurley signed by Gemma O’Connor, I’ve some of Gemma O’Connor’s gear from when I was 13-years-old. It was always unusual to play with her. Herself and Orla Cotter in particular. They would have been people you just admired so much and still do to this day.”

Although reclaiming an All-Ireland crown with Cork will be high on her agenda, O’Connor is every bit as determined to secure a Junior ‘A’ county title in the St Vincent’s colours. If they are to achieve the latter goal, she acknowledges it will be down to work-rate and desire rather than skill and raw talent.

“This championship is not going to be won by the best hurlers. It’s not going to be won by the fanciest team or the best team, for that matter. It’s going to be won by the people who genuinely want it the most, in terms of working hard,” says O’Connor.

“For me, it’s just going to be dogged. The more matches we get to play, people will improve.

“Maybe the latter stages of the championship will be better games, better spectacles. For me it will just be genuine hard work and grit to win the club championship this year.”

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