By Daragh Ó Conchúir
SHE did not have to return to the fold, having taken a year out after more than a decade representing Kildare but Siobhán Hurley did not feel comfortable walking away for good in the Lilies’ time of need.
An integral component of the renaissance that propelled Kildare from the Littlewoods Camogie Leagues Division 4 to reaching a Division 2 Final and that yielded All-Ireland Junior A and Premier Junior titles, Hurley was also a driving force as Johnstownbridge went on a remarkable run of garnering three consecutive All-Irelands– two at Junior level and then the Intermediate crown at the first attempt.
The demands had already been so much that she had called time on her ladies football career at county level, but the fuel gauge was on empty by the time Johnstownbridge prevailed over Athenry at St Tiernach’s Park in March 2018.
So she went travelling for five months around South America, Australasia and Asia with teammate Susie O’Carroll. It was divine.
It would have been easy to make the break a permanent one but as someone who derives real joy from playing for Kildare, just as her brothers Pádraig and Seán have done, it wasn’t really an option. And keeping an eye on the struggles of a squad in transition, it gnawed at her that it wouldn’t be right not to put her shoulder to the wheel when she still had something to give.
“It was pretty much all my adult life (playing)” Hurley explains. “I took maybe a year out for my leaving cert. I needed a bit of a break. Travelling was always something that I wanted to do. I thought that if I didn’t do it last year I would have looked back and blamed Camogie for not having done it, and I didn’t want to do that because Camogie has given me so many opportunities and I have loved every minute of it. I made a decision and I was lucky that Susie was going at the same time so we decided to go together.
“When we came back, I was of the opinion that if a few of us that were on those teams before didn’t go in, the whole thing would probably fall apart. We would be back at Nancy Murray stage next year. It is not fair on the other girls. There is a big gap between myself, Aoife (Trant), Tanya (Johnson) – Fiona (Trant) is probably in the middle – but there is a massive gap between us to the very early 20s. It’s not fair to ask them to hold Kildare Camogie together on their own.
“Even though I was away last year we were getting the results and it killed me to see the scores in those matches. We fought so hard to get Kildare Camogie to where it was and I would hate to see it all go down the drain in one year.”
Winning a Division 3 League Final would be a considerable boost in that context.
“Exactly. I am disappointed we are playing Division 3, we haven’t been there since we won it in 2012. It was probably a good thing though because the girls who never played before got the opportunity to be introduced at a level that was comfortable for them. They have improved with every game. Now coming into the Intermediate Championship, they will be well used to it. They will have the confidence of playing and hopefully winning this Division 3 Final to spur them on.”
The recently-turned 30-year-old, who is a teacher of junior and senior infants at Timahoe NS in Kildare, has fond memories of Johnstownbridge’s remarkable trio of All-Irelands. As a former Soaring Star, she was bound to have a leading role, along with other county players including Aoife Trant, Clodagh Flanagan, Aisling Holton Róisín O’Connell and Louise Codd. But it was the culture of the group that got them over the finishing line.
“We just have a bunch of very like-minded people. There are no divas or superstars. Everybody plays their part and everybody trains really hard. Everybody is there all the time. The management expect us to do well and they tell us that they expect us to do well. If you have everybody believing that you can achieve a goal like winning an All-Ireland it’s much easier to do it. Everyone puts in the work then as well.”
Achieving that with a more disparate gathering is more difficult at county level but it is attainable. Winning in Banagher today (1pm) would be an important step but Limerick stand in their way.
“We played them once already this year. We beat them by three points in the end but it was a very tight game. They are a very good hurling side. They are young enough.
“They beat Clare who would have finished second in the group (to Kildare). They are after improving significantly so it will be a tough game. It would be such a big boost for the Championship to win, with hopefully a few girls who have been unavailable with study and injury and things to come back in too. We’ll be doing everything we can to do so.”