By Daragh Ó Conchúir
IT WAS a tough time for everyone involved in Wexford Camogie in the spring, as the Seniors began the National League without a manager and unable to field a team.
This was a shocking turn of events for a county that had begun the decade by winning a second Liberty Insurance All-Ireland title in four seasons and the first of a famous three-in-a-row.
It was no surprise that they ended up being relegated to Division 2 and in the circumstances, getting their summer campaign underway against the might of neighbours and deadly rivals Kilkenny at Bellefield this evening (5pm) does not seem ideal.
There is a sense of pragmatism about the camp though. For a start, they have had a few months with new manager Barry Kennedy and his coaching staff. A number of players have returned to the fold too, and the contingent from All-Ireland Club finalists St Martin’s are sure to strengthen the panel.
Prominent among those is Chloe Foxe, who has quickly established herself as a key player at county level.
Someone who has always set the bar high, be that in sport (she also plays ladies football for Wexford) or in academia, it goes against the grain not to view ultimate honours as a legitimate target.
While not interested at all in discussing the League travails, because she sees no virtue in it, the 22-year-old acknowledges that Wexford are at the bottom of the ladder, and that the current phase is about rebuilding.
“I tend not to spend a lot of time looking backwards” Foxe declares. “It is what it is. We have come around to the fact that we are going towards the future now.
“People in Wexford Camogie, and everyone everywhere, we are looking towards the All-Irelands of the past for way too long. It is finally coming into recognition that we are looking into this transition phase or whatever they like to call it. We are firmly looking towards the future anyway.
“I came in at a time, and a few of the girls came in at the same time, where we were still holding onto the possibility of winning All-Irelands. There was a great buzz around it. To come down off such a high like that, and now come to realise it is not going to be the same in that regard is hard.
“The players coming in don’t have this understanding of what it means to play Wexford Camogie at county level. The young girls in particular, they don’t see it as how we saw it, as this great thing. It is difficult to actually show them what it means until you get to the stage of an All-Ireland Championship.”
There are many positives to this new era and Kennedy and his fellow mentors have cast the net far and wide in search of players hungry to wear the purple and gold.
“It’s a really fresh squad. It used to be a way in Wexford that you would have only had a couple of clubs that made up the first 15. But we are in a situation now where nearly every club is represented. That is really good for the underage and the young players coming through. They see players from their club and feel that playing for Wexford is an attainable goal.”
St. Martin’s loss to Slaughtneil in the All-Ireland club decider last March was devastating.
“I say to people, and it might sound drastic, but I say it is the closest thing to grief that I ever came through. A lot of the girls would have agreed with me in that respect as well. It was difficult because everyone broke away after the All-Ireland. I always think it is important to stay with teammates because those are the people who can really understand everything. Going straight back into college it was definitely very difficult that week. Other girls were doing different things. It was hard but it creates a fresh new hunger for this year.”
The computer science student is currently working with Liberty Insurance on work experience in a data analytics role and she hails the company for their support of Camogie.
“What Liberty are doing in particular is really making the game so much more enjoyable from a player’s point of view. And from a supporter’s point of view it is making it so much easier. It is bringing it so much closer to the men’s game in that regard.
“My brother is in Vancouver and he is going to be able to watch the games thanks to the livestreaming. I saw it the other way. He played in San Diego last week. They played the Camogie and the hurling in the same venue. All of the games are livestreamed. If we could try and do something like that in Ireland as well, bring the games together, that would be great. It makes it at the same standard, which is good. But there is great progress. It is coming on in leaps and bounds.
“It is very exciting too that the All-Stars are going to New York. To be first of all, nominated for an All-Star is an absolute dream. But to then get to go on the tour it would be absolutely unreal. It is great to get on your county team and then to win things. That is always the most important thing.
“The All-Stars are an individual recognition but that is important as well. But it all depends on how you get on as a team. That will always be first and foremost.”
Saturday June 22nd
Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship
Offaly v Galway, Lusmagh GAA @ 5pm
Referee: John Dermody (Westmeath)
Wexford v Kilkenny, Bellefield, Enniscorthy @ 5pm
Referee: Ray Kelly (Kildare)
Cork v Tipperary, CIT @ 5pm
Referee: Liz Dempsey (Kilkenny)
Meath v Clare, Páirc Tailteann @ 6pm
Referee: Eamon Cassidy (Derry)
Waterford v Dublin, Walsh Park @ 4pm *Livestreaming on the Liberty Insurance Facebook Page from 3.45pm
Referee: Cathal Egan (Cork)
Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Intermediate Camogie Championship
Dublin v Kilkenny, Parnells GAA, Coolock @ 5pm
Referee: Barry Nea (Westmeath)
Kildare v Cork, St. Conleth's Park, Newbridge @ 5pm
Referee: Justin Heffernan (Wexford)
Westmeath v Galway, Coralstown/Kinnegad GAA @ 5pm
Referee: Gavin Donegan (Dublin)
Carlow v Derry, Netwatch Training Centre, Fenagh @ 5pm
Referee: Alan Doheny (Laois)
Down v Laois, Ballyholland Harps GAA @4.30pm
Referee: Philip McDonald (Cavan)
Wexford v Tipperary, Bellefield, Enniscorthy @ 3pm
Referee: Patrick Murphy (Carlow)