One of the certainties of life as a Camogie President is that the term ends after three years. The 2012 Camogie Congress in Cork on 30/31 March brings my term to its conclusion so welcome to my 36th and final Blog.
Visit to the Áras
As you may have already seen from our website, our four Provincial Chairs and National Vice Presidents Eamonn Browne (Munster), Jackie Brien (Connacht), Kathleen Woods (Ulster) and Catherine Neary (Leinster) joined with me and the author of our national history of Camogie, Mary Moran on a recent visit to Uachtarán na hÉireann, Michael D. Higgins in Áras an Uachtaráin.
It was fantastic to meet there an old colleague from my playing days in Kildare, Clane’s Louise Conlon. Louise won a National League medal in 2004 with the Lilywhites and is the President’s Aide de Camp. Louise gave us an amazing tour of the Áras. The President generously accepted our presentation of a copy of the history, joined us for afternoon tea and left us all with a day to remember.
Launching new Camogie facilities
From tea in the Áras to tea in Ennis; earlier in the month I was in the Banner County to launch plans for the new Clare Camogie Grounds. Named after an incredibly faithful Camogie friend, the late Fr. Michael McNamara, the grounds are due to open in October 2012. It’s a fantastic development with a full size pitch for games alongside a floodlit training pitch.
Cork too are cutting the ribbon on their county grounds. It is an excellently laid out enclosed pitch and scoreboard and I will officially open the grounds in Blackrock at the end of the month. It has already hosted many games. On this occasion, rivals Cork and Tipperary will contest their Division 1 match to mark what will be a milestone event in Cork’s proud Camogie history.
The development of Camogie facilities is pioneering in the game and in female sport.
As the game continues to expand, there is increased pressure for training and playing pitches. Nationally, there are now ten Camogie-specific grounds in Cork, Clare, Galway, Tipperary (The Ragg and the first of the county grounds), Dublin (in the Phoenix Park since the Camogie Association was established) and in Wolfe Tones (Shannon), Inniscarra and Ballinhassig (both Cork) and St. Coleman’s (Gort). Cork Colleges also manages its own pitch adjacent to the new county grounds in Blackrock.
More pitches mean we can accommodate more players. Over forty new clubs were established in 2010 and 2011 alone, under our national development plan, Our Game Our Passion.
These include ‘start ups’ in traditional areas so that girls and boys get the same opportunity to enjoy the game. Examples include Carnew Emmets (Wicklow); Commercials (Dublin); Aghada (Cork); Mount Sion (Waterford); Muinebheag (Bagenalstown Carlow); Cratloe (Clare); Abbeyknockmoy (Galway).
Beyond these, start ups in several areas such as McCumhaills in Ballybofey ; Dr. Crokes in Killarney; Gort Letteragh in Leitrim, Mayo’s Ballyvary and Mullagh Cuchulainns in Cavan put lie to the idea that it is impossible to build Camogie outside of the traditional strongholds. With this growth the Camogie map is moving towards full national coverage.
Player welfare in Camogie
Club and county players participated in our first ever Player Welfare Survey. By the end of March we will announce its findings. The first Player Welfare Committee in Camogie was established in 2009 and I’m delighted that as my term ends that we have the first empirical information on the welfare needs and experiences of the players. This is timely as it comes out shortly after the launch of the new Hurling and Camogie Development Centre in Waterford Institute of Technology. The more we know about Camogie players as female athletes the better we can support and enhance playing and coaching performances. Watch out for the result to be released soon.
Playing rules, one club model and common insurance scheme are key issues for Congress
As well as player welfare, the playing rules are also on the Congress agenda. Most notable are the proposed changes to allow eight subs in all league competitions at all levels and the introduction of two points for a score over the bar from a sideline ball. Technical fouls, rough play and aggressive play are clarified. There is a new rule proposed to introduce a maximum size hurley for a goalkeeper and to rest. The requirement to wear skorts/skirts remains and shorts remain unacceptable (we got a 60/40 vote in favour of skorts in our online consultation with members on the rules).
Respect is at the heart of equal recognition and status for Camogie. Congress will be asked to adopt the One Club model which unambiguously supports this quest. In development since November 2010, the Initiative was recently agreed by our Central Council; by Ladies Football Central Council and by its recent Annual Congress; by the GAA’s Central Council and it will go to their April Congress.
The definition of a ‘one club’ commits to equal promotion of the games, ideals and aspirations of all Associations. Each ‘one club’ will be governed by a single constitution and club executive. There will be direct Camogie representation on the Executive and various sub-Committees. There will be a common club membership. All Camogie members will be full club members and have full voting rights. The One Club Initiative provides the framework for Camogie/GAA/Ladies Football clubs who voluntarily wish to move to this model.
For all clubs, insurance is a serious matter. At Congress, delegates will be asked to approve the introduction of a common scheme for all clubs. This means that everybody in Camogie would be required to purchase their insurance from the same company and all would be covered under the same scheme.
The main benefit of this approach is that by using the collective buying power of all of our members we ensure that we get the best terms and conditions in an insurance scheme for our members. It will also mean that across all counties and provinces there is consistency in the benefits payable to members. A key additional feature of the proposed common scheme is that:
• Parents driving children to matches are covered under the scheme once they are designated by the club to bring players and
• Unregistered volunteers/members will be covered if they have been asked to act on behalf of the club, e.g. a parent that is asked to umpire at a game and sustains an injury will be insured even if she/he is not registered with the club.
In the current tough economic environment, these elements of the scheme bring commercial savings and insurance benefits for all units.
I’m heading to Galway later in the week to present 2010 All Ireland club champions and current county senior champions Killimor with their medals. As National President, that celebratory evening in Loughrea will be my last club commitment before Congress.
I’ve been preparing for the change in roles though. I’m back with my club Celbridge as part of the senior management team and even bought a new pair of boots yesterday. They’re still a bit clean and shiny so they need a few more runs on the pitch! I’m also looking forward to undertaking Coaching Ireland/Camogie Association’s Coach Education Tutor Course in April so that I can deliver coaching courses later on.
Since my election as President Elect in 2008 and taking up office in 2009, it has been a wonderful privilege and opportunity to work, in a national capacity, to advance Camogie. It was a journey that I will always cherish.
The vitality, fervour and selflessness of people involved in our game at all levels, including that of our full time team led by Ard Stiúrthóir Sinead O’Connor, was inspiring and motivating.
The consideration and respect shown to the office of Camogie President, and personally, was deeply felt and appreciated at all times.
I sincerely thank you for your trust and support throughout my tenure.
Our game, our passion, is going from strength to strength and I wish my successor, Aileen Lawlor, every success and enjoyment for the next three years.
Siobhán Ní Fhloinn