It is difficult to grasp just how dominant Dublin used to be in the camogie world writes Daragh Ó Conchúir. They top the roll of honour for the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland senior championship with 26 successes. From 1948 to 1966, they enjoyed not so much a purple patch as a blue blitz, with 18 titles from 1948 to 1966. A blip in 1956 prevented an incredible 19-in-a-row. Defeat to Antrim after a replay in the 1967 final put the kibosh on 10-in-a-row.
The county has only won once since, in 1984. They had a good team in that era too but Cork and Kilkenny ruled the roost and that was their only return from five consecutive final appearances. They haven’t appeared in a decider since 1986. After such a prolonged spell in the doldrums, something is stirring in the capital once again. Consecutive junior titles in 2005 and 2006 weren’t the immediate springboard for success but in Louise O’Hara’s words, it made them feel like “a proper team”. They kept putting in the hard yards.
“Sometimes when you’re losing it’s easier to go out and train harder,” says O’Hara. “We were constantly trying different things.”
Meanwhile, the grassroots endeavour started paying dividends. Last year, Dublin won their first ever U16A title. The second adult team annexed the Division 4 title, and narrowly lost this year’s Division 3 final.
“The work is being put in every year” explains O’Hara. “Nobody goes out to lose. It’s just sometimes you don’t have the support and we were hanging on, waiting for these younger people coming through.
“We had fantastic minor teams in the last couple of years and now they’re starting to show at senior. As opposed to getting one or two coming through we’re now getting five or six.”
O’Hara has long been one of the country’s pre-eminent players, winning an All-Star back in 2006. The Erin’s Isle star remains a key contributor and is as enthusiastic now as she was a decade ago.
“As long as I’m enjoying it I’ll play but I’m not thinking like that. I can’t let (thinking about not playing) be in my head this year. I’ve committed this year and I want to play championship. I keep saying, when those young ones catch me in training, that’s when I’ll retire.
“I love the team atmosphere and we do have a great unit. We’re great friends on the Dublin team. I love the physical side of it, I love to train, and going out and expressing yourself on the pitch. It doesn’t always go great but I just love it.”
Those new players have had a very worthwhile league, with the defeat of All-Ireland champions Wexford a huge boost. Coming on the back of last year’s progress to the All-Ireland quarter-final, the mood is positive. Mind you, losing agonisingly by a point to Offaly meant it wasn’t all sweetness and light.
“The first initial few days, you’re gutted, thinking of any ball you missed or score you could have put over. But after that you think ‘hang on a second, we were up there’.
“I went down and watched Offaly playing (in the semi-final) and thinking ‘that should be us’ but at the same time going ‘that can be us’. Other years you’d have went down in awe of the other teams and thinking someday Dublin will be there but now we know that day is coming.”
Adopting a new gym structure concentrating on strength and core work has had a massive impact and they are physically more competitive than at any time in the past. So O’Hara knows what she wants. And she’s not afraid to say it.
“You wouldn’t be training all year if you’re not going to put yourself out there. We want a semi-final spot and who knows what will happen after that. So we have to take this first game (against Offaly) very seriously. We have to set the foundation and move on in a positive note.”