By Daragh Ó Conchúir
The party of 30 players plus Camogie Association President Kathleenn Woods, CEO Sinéad McNulty, support staff and media that participated in the hugely-successful Liberty Insurance Camogie All-Stars Tour to New York arrived back in Dublin today.
The group departed for the Big Apple on Thursday morning, two years after the inaugural tour to Madrid.
Prior to their departure from JFK International in the early hours of Tuesday (Irish time), they took in official functions hosted by New York’s Consul General of Ireland, Ciarán Madden, New York GAA and Liberty Insurance, while also playing in an exhibition match at the iconic Gaelic Park in the Bronx, which attracted strong viewership figures for Camogie matches that have been streamed live.
Refereeing and coaching courses were also organised by the Camogie Association, as the links between New York and Ireland were strengthened, with Irish ex-pats and native-born Americans joining forces to develop a love of Camogie in America and beyond.
A referee’s course was conducted by the man in the middle for last September’s Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Championship Final Ray Kelly, while the Camogie Association’s Coach Education and Development Co-ordinator Niall Williams – joint-manager when Kilkenny reached the 2013 and 2014 All-Ireland deciders – hosted coaching courses throughout the week, prior to moving on to Canada where he is continuing his work.
Importantly, the players who have been recognised as amongst the best in the land in the past two years received a tangible reward with Liberty Insurance doubling down on their support of Camogie and women in sport generally, while the Camogie Association pushes hard to raise standards on an annual basis.
The highlight of the tour was undoubtedly the match at a venue so indelibly linked with maintaining and developing Irish culture and Gaelic Games, including Camogie.
The 2019 team got the better of the class of 2018 at Gaelic Park, thanks largely to a stunning first-half contribution by Cork speedster Amy O’Connor.
O’Connor, the first All-Stars player in any code for the St. Vincent’s club on the northside of Cork City, flourished in the open spaces and bagged three goals and four points in the opening period, adding a pointed free after the resumption.
Cáit Devane excelled for the 2018 unit, smashing home an early goal after a brilliant point and finishing with 1-7, the Tipperary sharpshooter demonstrating dead-eye accuracy from placed balls after the resumption.
Current Player of the Year Niamh Kilkenny, Waterford trio Beth Carton, Lorraine Bray and Niamh Rockett and Limerick’s Niamh Mulcahy were just some of the others to stand out.
Galway’s All-Ireland-winning boss Cathal Murray was manager of the victors, while his predecessor as Manager of the Year, Paudie Murray of Cork took charge of the 2018 squad.
2019 ALL STARS: Sarah Healy (Galway), Shauna Healy (Galway), S Dervan (Galway), E Keane (Kilkenny), H Cooney (Galway), C Phelan (Kilkenny), L Bray (Waterford), A Donohoe (Galway), N Kilkenny (Galway), N Mulcahy (Limerick), N Rockett (Waterford), A O’Connor (Cork), N Coen (Galway), A O’Reilly (Galway), Beth Carton (Waterford)
2018 ALL-STARS: A Murray (Cork), G Walsh (Kilkenny), L Treacy (Killeagh), P Mackey (Cork), H Looney (Cork), D Tobin (Kilkenny), C Sigerson (Cork), G O’Connor (Cork), M Farrell (Kilkenny), O Cotter (Cork), K Power (Kilkenny), D Gaule (Kilkenny), K Mackey (Cork), C Devane (Tipperary), O Beagan (Dublin)
REFEREE: Ray Kelly (Kildare)