By Daragh Ë Conch·ir
London is a real hub of Gaelic games activity right now, and following the achievements of the Exiles’ hurlers and footballers in the past six months, it is the turn now of their camogie sisters to shine.
Tomorrow, Ruislip will play host to the All-Ireland junior club semi-final between Tara and Carlow champions Myshall, and there is a genuine belief that they can break new boundaries by reaching the final for the first time.
If it happens, former Galway star, Denise Gilligan is likely to play a prominent role. The Craughwell native is the proud owner of five All-Ireland medals.
Three of those came in the county colours at minor, junior and senior level, scoring two goals in what remains Galway’s only success at the highest level in 1996. She also won two vocational schools honours with St Brigid’s, Loughrea.
One senses though, that going the whole way with Tara would mean as much as any of those successes, and not just because Gilligan is captain.
A club with a strong tradition in the English capital, Tara completed a three-in-a-row of senior championships this year. Gilligan was also captain in 2009, having bought into the club completely upon accepting a job as an account manager for an educational company.
“”I’m in London three and a half years”” says Gilligan. “”I came over initially for the summer and just never went home. And I’ve no intention of going home either.
Camogie would be exactly the same as the football and hurling here. Definitely the hurlers winning the Nicky Rackard and the footballers’ performances in the championship show that the games are thriving here although unfortunately the camogie board doesn’t have the funds to send a team to Ireland to compete.
There are some real quality players that have had to come over to find work because of how bad things are at home. There are new players always coming and we have a couple of players now that I would say would walk on any team.””
Kilkenny duo, Angela Kenneally and Bid Grennan fit into that category, as does Tipperary woman, Ann Gleeson. So too does Gilligan herself. The skipper scored 2-6 in Tara’s 2-9 to 0-11 victory over RuairÝ Ëg of Cushendall in the Alll-Ireland quarter-final, with all bar three points of that tally coming from play.
That brought Tara to a semi-final for the first time since the early 90s, when they managed it twice. They have never gotten to the final though and Myshall are pretty steep hurdle to clear if history is to be achieved.
“”If we could do it, it would be great, not just for the club, but for camogie in London. While there are only four senior clubs, there are around ten at junior level so there’s plenty going on and to have a team in an All-Ireland would be fantastic.
Myshall won their first Leinster championship since 1998 and they have something like six or seven of that panel still playing. So I think it will be different to Cushendall, who were young and quick but didn’t have the experience.
This Carlow team have been around the block, they’ll have the experience and I’m sure they’ll know what to do. They’ll be a tough, physical team, so we are expecting a very tough match.
But we won that quarter-final in Antrim in front of a big crowd, the pitch was different to what we were used to – we’re used to playing on hard ground as the weather is never as bad here – so winning that with all the elements against us gave us great confidence.
We firmly believe, for the first time in the last three years, that we can win the All-Ireland title this year and it’s going to take a very good Myshall team to beat us in the semi-final.””