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Curran slowing it down to good effect

Sat 08th Jun

Daragh Ó Conchúir


By Daragh Ó Conchúir
Anais Curran describes the selection of her first name as “random,” joking that her parents must have gotten it “out of a Lucky Bag.”

It is of French derivation but there isn’t even the feintest hint of Gallic influence in the Family Tree or anywhere else to explain it.

The Oulart-The Ballagh sharpshooter is long established as a camogie player of talent, having been fast-tracked from Wexford’s Leinster Championship winning U16 and minor teams along with Ciara O’Connor and Kate Kirwan.

But following her heroics last weekend, when she scored the last two points on the way to recording a tally of a goal and eight and more importantly, snatching an injury-time draw for the Yellowbellies against one of the favourites for the Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Senior Championship, Galway at Bellefield last Saturday, a lot more people know who Anais Curran is.

If not how to say her name.

Curran took over the free-taking when O’Connor was forced to leave the fray with a knee injury after ten minutes. Her experience in that role proved crucial, particularly when faced with the final opportunity to grab what was a deserved share of the spoils.

It was nerve-racking stuff but Curran was as cold as ice.

“It’s trying to not overthink it,” the 23-year-old details of her mindset in such a scenario. “You’re talking to yourself in your head. You’re just trying to calm yourself. You can do it every other time, so why change? Take a deep breath and keep your normal routine. You’ve taken hundreds and hundreds of frees so don’t complicate it more than it is.

“Obviously, there’s pressure and there’s a lot riding on it but if you keep it calm and focus on what the job is in front of you, the rest will look after yourself.

“I have experience when it goes wrong or when it goes the right way. I can tell you now, when it goes wrong, it’s not nice. You’re thinking about it for a long time after that. It does play on the mind.

“But what I do is just slow it right down. Don’t rush anything. That’s what I’ve done over the years.”

The posts were split and what could be a crucial point when the final numbers are crunched in Group 2 was pocketed.

This felt different to last year’s draw against Kilkenny that also offered hope of a Wexford renaissance gathering momentum. It didn’t materialise but that result 12 months ago centred on a brilliant fightback in the final quarter.

Last weekend in McCauley Park, they stood toe-to-toe with the Tribeswomen and traded punches from the opening bell. They were never outgunned. What’s more, they didn’t fold when the talismanic O’Connor had to depart.

They will hope the results of the scan undergone by the St Martin’s attacker during the week are favourable, but the panel strength stood up against Galway and they have the likes of Amy Cardiff and Orla Sinnott returning from injury now too.

“Our performance last week against Galway was more of an even performance and an overall performance from ourselves. It’s something we’ve been trying to get for the last few months that wasn’t coming but we can see the training is paying off. It’s trying to translate what we’re doing on the training pitch and bringing it to matches. Against Galway it came to fruition more than it had been against Dublin, Kilkenny and Cork in previous matches.”

Today’s clash with Dublin at Parnell Park has had ‘C-R-U-N-C-H’ stamped upon it since the fixture list came out. While Clare will feel they can still have a say, many observers considered this the decider with regard to securing the third qualifying berth along with All-Ireland champions Cork and Galway.

It is a repeat of the Very League Division 1B final, where Wexford were leading until a Grace O’Shea goal in injury time grasped the silverware and promotion to the top tier from their grasp. The Dubs pushed Galway to three points, so there is no doubt these are two well matched outfits.

“I think it’s probably the most important game we are going to play and that’s no disrespect to any other teams we are to come up against. The draw has given us confidence. Dublin won’t make it easy. I think if we show up, we can do it. And we’ll take, if it’s one point, getting over the line having to do it the dirty way, we’ll do it that way.

“We’ll use the disappointment from the League final that we left behind us. We have to learn from those situations as well. There’s never much between ourselves and Dublin. It’s never going to be a big gap. But when you get to the last minute of the match, you’re hoping you can see the victory out but it doesn’t happen, it’s so disappointing.

“But then again, Dublin didn’t give up either. You just have to go to that final whistle. But we’re building all the time.”

And Curran is helping that process for the longer term. A games promotion officer with Wexford GAA, she happily admits to having her “dream job” for the past year now, having been a social care worker before that.

Among the key tasks is creating links to the local clubs via the schools, though focus will switch to supervising the camps during the summer holidays. There is an opportunity too to upskill club coaches.

The challenges are many. The increasing diversity of classrooms is one factor, though not an insurmountable one. The real issue is the level of competition, even in rural Ireland now, where once there was none.

“There’s so many other things. Soccer – gymnastics is a big one – dancing, rugby as well. There’s a lot of competition there but we’re just trying to create another link. You’re giving them a little taster. We keep it fun-based. It’s a good introduction for them.

“A big part of what the GPOs and POs do is coach education. Coaches have such a big role in kids’ experiences in clubs so it’s trying to upskill them and show them how coaching is constantly evolving for the positive.

“What can we do to entice kids, keep them there, enjoying the sport?”

It is a Wexford GAA appointment but in practice, integration is very much at play.

“I’d often take sessions with camogie teams in the clubs and then I’d have the young chaps as well. It’s a good mix and it’s good to see what’s coming.”

And good for them to see what’s already there.

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