EACH sport has their incredible volunteers.
There are few that have the expansive contribution of Cork’s Mary Moran.
Mary was the 18th President of the Camogie Association, elected in 1973. She engaged in the most ambitious programme for a president at the time, travelling the length and breadth of the country to attend medals, functions and coaching courses.
When she moved to Cork from Limerick at the age of 11 she attended
St Aloysius School (a prominent camogie nursery) and was introduced to game for the first time.
She won Cork Colleges senior and junior championship medals with them. She played Ashbourne Cup with UCC and won Cork senior and junior championship medals with Old Aloysius Camogie club.
On being appointed to AIB, Dame St, she joined Dublin camogie side Celtic, winning Dublin senior league and championship medals.
Mary won an All Ireland and Munster senior championship medals for her adopted county of Cork.
She joined St Finbarr’s and became secretary of the club.
Mary then trained Cork to two senior All Ireland titles 1972 and 1973, an All Ireland Junior (two in the same afternoon in 1973), and two All Ireland Minor titles in 1975 and 1976.
With Ann Carroll in 1978 she wrote the first camogie coaching book called ‘Camogie’ and followed with a second one, ‘The Coach in Action’.
Mary chaired the Cork Camogie Board for 10 years, 1968–77, and was President for five, 1993–97.
She was chair of Munster Council from 2002–06, secretary of Munster Colleges and secretary of All-Ireland Colleges Council for 32 years, 1969–2001, and trustee of the Camogie Association, 2006–2010.
Mary’s writing continued.
She is the author of many camogie books, ones I often reference. ‘Camogie Champions’ (1997), ‘Gymfrocks and Headbands’ - a history of Munster Colleges, (1997), ‘A Resounding Success’ – a history of All Ireland Colleges, (1998), ‘Cork’s Camogie Story (2000), and ‘Munster’s Camogie Story (2004).
Her national history of Camogie ‘A Game of Our Own, was published in 2011. If anyone can compare the past with the present, it’s Mary and she gave me her views when asked about the changes she has seen over the years.
"Yes, indeed I have seen changes in all facets of camogie. Facilities were non-existent in my playing days. The County Board rented a field in Church Road.
"Players togged out at home, took the bus, cycled or walked to the venue.
"Coats were placed in a bundle at the side of the field with the newest recruit’s coat on top to catch the rain. Afterwards, we donned our wet coats, got on our bikes covered in mud and cycled home.
"Today’s players enjoy state-of-the-art facilities at Castleroad. Great credit is due to Marian McCarthy and her hard-working committee for their foresight, courage and energy in taking on the project and seeing it through.
"At club level, camogie shares ever-improving facilities with the GAA. The workload carried by the officers of the senior and juvenile boards is colossal. The number of competitions catered for is huge."
How much longer can a busy county like Cork continue without at least a full-time paid secretary?
"Finance has always presented a headache for camogie. In my playing days, wages were small, government grants for sport did not exist, gate receipts were meagre, and sponsorship did not reach down the pecking order as far as camogie.
"Finding the money to meet the commitments on Castleroad and its upkeep, funding inter-county teams and general administration costs is a constant worry."
Expectations of present-day players is high.
"Publicity afforded to camogie has improved but it still lacks significantly behind that provided to male sport. On a positive note, The Echo gives camogie a good showing. Modern technology opens up new channels to get our message across and enhance the image of the game.
"That is a far cry from the days when 'to get a mention' in a minute match preview or report was all that one could aspire to."
The game itself has undergone huge change.
Present-day players may find it hard to believe that a 'points bar' existed, joining the tops of the goal posts 20 feet from the ground. A ball passing over this bar was deemed wide. Prior to 1970, no player could be substituted unless the referee considered that she was unable to continue.
No under-age camogie existed at club or inter-county level and the National Leagues had not been established.
"The game was played primarily on the ground with longer and heavier sticks than those in use today. The art of good ground striking, and dribbling have been lost.
"The greatest change that I have witnessed has undoubtedly been the introduction of the 15-aside game on the full-sized pitch. It has necessitated much higher levels of fitness. The game has grown closer to hurling.
"I was disappointed that no effort was made to rid the game of the increasing occurrence of scrums. Why do so many players feel the necessity to join in?"
Has the game improved?
"The answer is undoubtedly yes. U14 players I watched at the National Féile na nGael displayed more skill than many of the players of yesteryear.
"There have always been great players of exceptional natural ability. The big difference is the standard of the remainder of the team. All players can play now."