SINCE its inauguration in 2004, Gemma O’Connor has been nominated 14 times for an All-Star, winning 11 statues, even though she missed one season while overseas with the Irish Army.
The nominations speak for themselves, the awards even further, of the consistency of one of camogie’s greatest players. Gemma sets high standards and I know that she would take pleasure in those nominations and awards, not because of the personal accolade but because they gave confirmation that she had done her best on the field for her teammates and county.
She’s extremely disappointed and upset that Cork were left so short on the nomination front this year, not because she wasn’t nominated, but because some of her teammates weren’t when they clearly deserved to be.
“I want to make this clear; I’m not whingeing or being unsporting because I didn’t get one. And I didn’t expect me or Cork to get six or seven All-Stars because of how the championship finished for us but I just think that from the nominations point of view to only get four from 45?
“If you look back over the years at the semi-finalists, it’s a long time if ever that they only picked four from those counties. I can’t get over it. It’s almost as if we’re punished in a way for the group we were in, in that, because we were beating teams comfortably, we weren’t being challenged, when really, it’s because of how well we were performing is why we won those the way we did.
“None of our group games as All-Ireland champions for two years in a row were televised/streamed either. The publicity nationally around our games wasn’t as high as for others.
“The nominations for the ‘Player of the Week’ – I recall our game against Meath, they may not be as strong as other teams, but Cliona Healy played up front for us and scored five points from play. If that was any other team, she would have been nominated for Player of the Week.
“We were winning our games well and there were weeks when no Cork player was nominated. I don’t want to go down the line of thinking there’s this thing against Cork, but little things have happened over the past couple of years that has me leaning towards that way of thinking.
“I know the Association might want a change. It’s like they don’t want us to reach an All-Ireland final. As captain and having watched the players train and play all year and watch how some of them performed I feel I have to say it, speak on behalf of the Cork team, when I say that giving four nominations is completely disrespectful to us as a group of players.”
Gemma feels a number of her team-mates did more than enough to be recognised.
“Orla Cotter, do they mean to tell me that she didn’t deserve a nomination? Same as Orla Cronin.
Chloe Sigerson scored points from play and frees that you wouldn’t see in a senior hurling game. I just feel that as captain I need to represent the players and say we were wronged.
‘’It’s nothing against Tipperary. I’m not trying to steal other team’s or players’ thunder, but we played them three times this year, the facts are there. Comparing our players and their players on a semi-final stage and what we scored and conceded during the championship versus what they did, it just doesn’t make sense.
“Their players did not perform better than our players and they’ve nine nominations.”
The St Finbarr’s club stalwart has never been slow to speak her mind.
“I find the association at times so frustrating. They can be unreasonable and unaccommodating. I’ve played the game all my life.
“I hate when it gets negative publicity but for example, a few players from a number of counties went and met them this year about the rule changes. Here we are, players from different counties with the same view.
“But all we were told was players shouldn’t be giving negative opinions, that we need to say the right thing to the press when interviewed. Players have a right to express their views.”
I find that bizarre when anyone who watched the 2017 and 2018 finals could see for themselves how the game wasn’t flowing. For players like Gemma to deny or defend that would make them look ridiculous.
Reflecting on Cork’s season it’s difficult to pinpoint what went wrong in their bid for three in a row.
“I think people tried to do the right thing this year but maybe without realising it some weren’t as focused as they should be. Our stats showed that we were off the pace. What’s particularly disappointing is that we wanted to reach another level. I thought we were mentally tougher than what we were in the semi-final, but that bite and hunger wasn’t there. I thought it was.
“And look you’ll always have two or three players that might not play their best in any game but when you’ve six or seven and only losing by a point to the All-Ireland champions, I think that’s the hardest thing to take.”