TEDDY O’Donovan, the Cork camogie goalkeeping coach since 2014, could have been excused for looking over his shoulder at the appointment of Davy Fitzgerald as team coach.
But Douglas man O’Donovan soon learned the former Clare netminder great had no intention of interfering with his role.
“I was chatting with our manager, Matthew Twomey, before Christmas, and he was laying out the plans for the season,” O’Donovan says. “He told me Davy was getting involved, which I said was fine. The easiest way to describe it was that Davy told me to keep on doing what I was doing and he wouldn’t be interfering.
“Now, we’d often be bouncing things off one another, picking each other’s brains, but he leaves me to my own devices.
“Davy has his own puck-out strategies, revolving around three or four systems, and we’d sit down and talk about them first, before he outlines what he’s looking for in general.”
On the eve of another All-Ireland final against the old enemy, Kilkenny, all of Cork hope that the fruits of their endeavours will be seen at Croke Park tomorrow.
O’Donovan was brought on board by Paudie Murray to look after sister Aoife, who was the number-one ’keeper at the time. “Part of my brief that year, and again the following season, was the six backs, too, not only on match days, but in training, also.
“We’d be talking systems, game-play, defending, attacking forwards, and any problems that could arise,” O’Donovan says. “Basically, anything between positions one and seven we’d discuss and anything that management wanted to talk about from a defensive viewpoint we’d iron out.
Being a former ’keeper of renown, O’Donovan could appreciate Aoife’s talent. “She was exceptional; definitely the best in the business and the best the country has ever seen. Because Aoife worked in Dublin, we’d be in regular contact and, basically, anything that was annoying her or needed working on, we’d base our training on that.
“Matthew was the coach back then and he said just ‘listen to Aoife’, because she had won All-Irelands and All-Stars; done it all in effect. Then, when it came to game time, she had peace of mind, because we had worked on everything she had asked.”
As camogie evolved, so did O’Donovan’s role. “In the first two years, I would have been on the sideline, but it changed a bit for the next three seasons, 2016, ’17 and ’18. On match days, I’d do the warm-up with Aoife, before going to the stands to watch the game.
I’d be with Niall Collins, who did all our stats and was a genius at it, compiling all the facts and figures as the game was progressing.
"You’d be looking at things like clearances from defence, how the opposition half-forwards, for example, were setting up for puck-outs and how their inside line was moving, identifying their most dangerous forwards. And all that led to how we would try and get to grips with their attack, in all aspects.
The changing of the guard, with Amy Lee taking over from Aoife, has also led to O’Donovan switching positions again.
“I’m back to my old original role with Amy, Mollie Lynch, and Caoimhe Buckley, who are the three ’keepers on the panel, as well as the six backs.
“Again, on match days I’d do the warm-up with them and back on the sideline once more.”
It’s been a rewarding journey for the Douglas pair, Twomey having soldiered in many a campaign, too.
“Matthew and I were unsure what we letting ourselves in for, because while we knew the club standard, we didn’t know about the inter-county scene.
“Yet, it was easy, in a way, because you’re dealing with elite athletes, who have a professional approach, though, obviously, it’s an amateur sport.
I reckon the girls put as much into camogie as the lads do in hurling and it’s great working with them.
“You could have 30-odd players at training and you know every one of them is of the highest standard, which makes it that bit easier.
“There’s a good buzz about it as well. You’re involved in the biggest games in the best grounds and meeting people you’ve not seen for years,” O’Donovan says.