New Dublin camogie manager, Shane O’Brien isn’t making any big promises about what we can expect from his team in this season’s Irish Daily Star Camogie League.
O’Brien was coach of the Dublin U21 hurlers for a couple of seasons, including when they reached the 2011 All-Ireland final, so is well attuned to the requirements of top-level achievement. Having provided coaching to the camogie squad last term, he is also realistic.
The facts are that Dublin have rarely been able to achieve any sort of consistency in terms of selection from one year to the next, despite doing very well at underage level. The depth is evident by the manner in which the second team has competed in recent years.
Winning a first U16A All-Ireland in 30 years in 2012 was massive and the same year, the second team won Division 4 of the IDS League. They have reached the Division 3 final in each of the subsequent campaigns.
But the seniors have struggled badly, suffering a catalogue of heavy defeats that inflict psychological scarring on those that choose to stay on, causing others to pack it in and making it unattractive for other potential talents to even make the step up.
It is a difficult one to solve. To make it attractive, you need to improve results. To improve results you could do with the best players available. O’Brien held trials in December and drew an excellent response. In excess of 90 players attended and he has chosen a squad of 35.
There are some familiar names, such as the legendary Louise O’Hara, Orlaith Durkin, Ali Twomey and Mairi Moynihan, but more than half the panel is new, with 11 of Sunday’s starting team against Derry not part of last year’s set-up.
“The psychological hurdle is probably the biggest one they have to jump” reckons O’Brien. “We have girls who have played the last number of years and suffered some horrendous defeats. So it’s a matter of building their confidence back up and building their self-esteem. That’s a huge challenge in itself.”
The no-fear attitude of the youth will hopefully help. Leah Butler and Mary Cronin are two Leaving Cert students that are involved on Sunday. At the other end of the scale, O’Brien approached former Limerick and Cork players, Rose Collins and Sarah O’Donovan and invited them to throw their lot in with the Dubs.
“They’re two big additions with experience. They’re delighted to be involved and they’re bringing a huge amount to the set-up.
“Sarah and Rose bring a huge amount of experience but the great thing about bringing in young players who have had the success at underage, they haven’t suffered the big defeats and psychologically they’re in a very good place. That brings a whole new dimension to the set-up as well.”
But like we said at the outset, this is no false prophet. He means business, as evidenced by his backroom team. Former manager/coach to Dublin, Tipperary, Wexford and Limerick hurlers, Michael O’Grady is an invaluable member, as is John Treacy (former Dublin captain and manager of Dublin minor hurlers), Shane Dalton (former Dublin hurler), Derek Ryan (former World No. 7 ranked squash player), Laura McCague (former Louth senior football physio and daughter of former GAA president, Sean) and Sandra Tarr (long-time liaison officer).
“It’s about taking the small steps initially. We have a huge mountain to climb. There’s no point in pretending otherwise. If you look at last year, our first defeat, we were beaten by 37 points and we would have had similar defeats.
“So it’s not a case of waving a magic wand. There’s an awful lot of work to be done.
“We have a hugely enthusiastic bunch. We have had very good numbers at training since I took over and everything that has been asked of them, they have given. Without looking at results, we’re very happy with where we are at the moment.”