Becoming a veteran of the Galway panel crept up on Sarah Dervan. It doesn’t feel right at 27 to be placed in that bracket but the panel has undergone an overhaul in the past 18 months, as a number of long-serving players calling time on stellar careers writes Daragh Ó Conchúir.
In truth, Dervan is well qualified for the role. In her professional life, she is a team leader with Ballybrit-based medical technology company, Medtronic. Pointing the way, ensuring everyone is happy, committed and focussed, dealing with issues that arise, fostering a good culture, emphasising the group over the individual and the importance of everyone pulling the one way to achieve desired results. As it is at work, so it is on the pitch. A happy, dedicated environment is a fruitful one.
Of course she is hugely respected as a player, because actions speak loudest. A daughter of Jackie, who was an All-Ireland hurling winner in the historic Galway panel of 1980, and sister of former senior hurlers Conor and Cathal, she was a natural with the camán, evidenced by winning the Féile skills in 2001.
She won an intermediate All-Ireland with Galway in 2009 and has been a regular on the senior team since, starring when they ended years of heartache for the county at Croke Park in 2013. Unsurprisingly, she earned an All-Star for her efforts in that memorable campaign.
Last year, Dervan was a driving force as Mullagh upset the odds time and again to win the county championship and reach the All-Ireland club final last March. That ended disappointingly at the hands of Oulart-The Ballagh but Dervan’s efforts earned her the Galway Bay FM Sports Personality of the Year award for 2014. They also got her the vice-captaincy of the Galway squad.
“This year started out as a bit of a damper for me when we were bet well in the All-Ireland club final. But it was good to get back in with Galway. We’re very young now after a lot of retirements, which makes me one of the more experienced heads, which is kind of frightening."
“The skill and pace that the young ones have is unbelievable and they seem to be taking to it to like a duck to water. It took me a year or two to get up to speed."
“You have Emma Kilkenny and Susan (Earner) as the oldest now, then it’s down to myself and Molly Dunne. Then it’s the likes of Niamh McGrath and then way down to Orlaith (McGrath) and a few others. We’re all on a par though, working together, fighting for each other. We’re working hard.”
There was pressure in being defending champions last year and while they fought to stave off any loss in appetite that might result from the realisation of a long-held dream, the likelihood is that it just wasn’t at the same level.
The retirement of the talismanic Therese Maher was felt keenly too but now there is an infusion of young talent, of real pace and a cutting edge, particularly in attack, and the blend with the likes Dervan, Earner, Niamh Kilkenny and Lorraine Ryan is proving effective.
“This is a new era for Galway camogie and we’ll take every game as it comes. Thankfully we’ve had a good run of it. I wasn’t there for the Limerick game or the Tipp game (because of club commitments). I came in for the Offaly game and after getting a good lead, we nearly let it slip again but we got a goal and drove on."
“We had a good day against Wexford. We really played well but Wexford were depleted, missing a lot of their older players. Against Kilkenny in the semi-final we had a great start but again, in the second half, we let them back into it. That’s something we have to work on. You can’t take your foot off the accelerator. But you always expected Kilkenny to come back at you."
“Every game is focussed on performance rather than the result. We’re working well, our forwards are moving well. We have a young team and we’ll have our work cut out for us against Cork. They’re a fantastic team, All-Ireland champions and never easy bet. Cork in a final is never good! They always seem to come out the right side of it but we’ll concentrate on reaching our performance levels and hopefully that will be good enough.”