If you think Dublin are driven after losing last year’s All-Ireland junior A camogie final – and they are – just imagine how motivated their ace attacker, Elaine Gallery is. Watching Westmeath walk away with the Nancy Murray Cup 12 months ago after their deserved five-point win wasn’t the first time Gallery had been within touching distance of the Holy Grail, but been denied ultimate satisfaction writes Daragh Ó Conchúir.
Seven years previously, she was playing with her native Clare in the All-Ireland premier junior decider. That was agonising. Ironically, it was Dublin that provided the opposition and prevailed in a replay in Birr by eight points, after the sides had proved inseparable in Croke Park on 1-7 apiece.
Now 28, Gallery is champing at the bit for another crack at the big one – Sunday's Liberty Insurance All-Ireland junior A final against Offaly. The Shannon woman, who learned her camogie with Wolfe Tones, has been based in Raheny Garda Station since coming out of Templemore Training College five years ago.
She threw her lot in with Portobello and was called up to the Dublin senior panel before becoming a mainstay of the Metropolitans’ second team.
“I’m really enjoying it” says Gallery, sounding remarkably fresh despite not being long up after a night shift.
“I’m probably the happiest I’ve ever been playing camogie at the moment. It’s such a great bunch of girls. I just love Dublin camogie and they’re putting so much into it. It would be nice to be able to come home with some silverware and show a bit of reward for what’s being put in.”
“We were gutted after not winning last year. We had it really built up because it was the first proper year of being organised with the junior team. We put a lot of work into it. Winning the (Division 4) league, we were probably confident enough going into it. There were a lot of young girls on the team and it’s heartbreaking losing a final.”
She has thought a lot about it since and collectively, they spoken about what happened when they got back together at the beginning of the year. It may have been, that the enormity of what was at stake proved too much for them.
“Experience I’d say was a lot to do with it. They did hurl a lot better than us on the day… I don’t know if we played to our potential really. Maybe it was a psychological thing; it was a big day for us but a lot of girls didn’t play as well as we could have. We had a lot of homework done, a lot of background stuff done but maybe it was the occasion.”
Certainly, that shouldn’t be a factor in Clane on Sunday. Having been in a final, they know what to expect. And they certainly won’t want another dose of pain.
“That’s what we’ve been using all year. The fact we lost last year, we’ve a lot to make up for. We feel we’ve added hugely to the panel this year. We’ve a lot of homework done and personally, I feel our fitness is much better this year. We have new stuff the lads have introduced which should help us have the edge.”
While the seniors disappointed in this year’s championship, these are heady days for Dublin camogie in general. The talent coming through the underage ranks is amongst the best in the country, as results are showing. Orla Beagan is a 16-year-old potential star for whom the junior set-up is providing an ideal pathway towards top-flight camogie. It’s a win-win scenario.
The juniors are thriving too and got all the way to the Division 3 league final in April, losing only to a Laois team that will be playing in the Liberty Insurance premier junior semi-final on Saturday.
“Laois definitely had the edge over us… you could tell their experience. We gave it a good lash but you could tell we could do with another year in Division 3. We were delighted to get to the final. We had a good campaign; we won all our matches coming up to the final. Of course it was disappointing to lose but it didn’t do us any harm.”
Far from it in fact; it was the perfect preparation as Dublin were operating at a higher level, being tested and passing all but that final test.
“With the games under our belt, it gave us confidence that we were well able. And we’d a good strong panel. It wasn’t the same 15 as was the case last year. It’s a vibrant panel, with a good few young girls, with a great team spirit that’s even better than last year.”
They have played Offaly twice in 2013. On the first occasion, the Midlanders had three points in hand in the Leinster championships.
When they renewed acquaintances in the opening group game of the All-Ireland championship, the fortunes were very different, as a revved-up Dublin had 11 points in hand in Parnell Park.
Gallery isn’t expecting anything of that nature this time around and is confident that there won’t be any complacency on the back of it.
“We’re fairly grounded that way. The lads have it drilled into us… one win for them, one win for us. I think it’ll be a fairly tight match and there won’t be any team walking away with it, that it’ll be nip and tuck all the way through. Maybe that will make for an exciting match but I’m just hoping we come out the right end of it.”
Liberty Insurance Junior A Camogie Final
Dublin v Offaly, Clane GAA Club, 2.00pm