“We are questioned a lot and we only have ourselves to blame for that. If we want to change people’s opinions we can only do it ourselves” – Galway’s Carrie Dolan
By Daragh Ó Conchúir
SHE may be one of the youngest members of the squad but Carrie Dolan is anxious to own the past, present and future of Galway Senior Camogie.
The westerners’ failure to create more of an impact since garnering just their second All-Ireland Senior Championship in 2013, and inability to claim any national title since the Littlewoods Ireland Camogie Leagues Division 1 title two years later, has puzzled many observers given their array of talent.
The managerial merry-go-round since the departure of their only All-Ireland-winning boss, Tony Ward at the end of 2015 can’t have helped but Dolan, who only celebrates her 20th birthday in the coming weeks, says that it is up to the players to end talk of underachievement by achieving more.
“We are questioned a lot and we only have ourselves to blame for that” says Dolan.
“We struggle to probably perform well, and come up with the big performances against the bigger teams, the Kilkennys and the Corks.
It’s something that only we can change. If we want to change people’s opinions we can only do it ourselves.”
Former Galway hurling defender Cathal Murray, who was player-manager when Sarsfields ended an 18-year drought in the County Senior Hurling Championship in 2015, stepped into the fray as manager at the end of last year’s League and his new charges showed plenty of steel in pushing Kilkenny to the wire in the All-Ireland Semi-Final.
With a first pre-season under the boss behind them, the Maroons have looked strong so far this term and the manner in which they blitzed a Limerick team that had lost only to the Cats, and that by a late point, in the Semi-Final was highly impressive.
“Workrate is a big thing with him. And playing as a team, he doesn’t like us playing as individuals. But there is no real system to it at all. He lets us play a free style of Camogie.”
The traditional Galway style.
“It is really. Consistency is probably the big thing with us. We get to the Semi-Finals every year but it’s making the extra step up. We haven’t been in the League Final since 2016. Staying in the League as long as we could was a big thing for us. It is something that the management have instilled as well. We want as many competitive games for as long as possible.”
Today will be Dolan’s first appearance at Croke Park but she is remarkably unruffled by the prospect.
“Yeah it is brilliant sure. It is usually only really an All-Ireland Final that Camogie get to play there. It’s good to get a run out there in the League.
“It’s a thing that wouldn’t really affect me. It’s nice to be playing there. Looking forward to it now but it wouldn’t really affect me, the venue.
“But it is good for Camogie.”
Although called up to the panel first in 2016, Dolan made her debut last February and had an instant impact in her breakthrough season, when she was entrusted with the free-taking duties.
“It’s good to have a year’s experience under your belt. To have the experience to get to an All-Ireland Semi-Final. Playing against the Kilkennys and the Corks. Physicality-wise it’s a huge thing.
“I have come from Minor and Under 16 playing girls that are the same size and stature. But when you are coming up against girls that are 10 years older it’s a big step up. But it’s something you have to get used to. The intensity, workrate, fitness levels, that all comes down to training. But it’s at a much higher standard than it was at underage.”
The Clarinbridge markswoman has recovered from a quad strain that led to her substitution at half-time against Limerick and is expecting a titanic tussle against the four-in-a-row chasing Kilkenny.
“We played them in the last round of the Championship (group phase) last year, and we played them in the Semi-Final last year as well. In the last round of the Championship there was nothing between us really. We had a lot of wides in the first half that went against us. And Kilkenny got a penalty and we sat back a bit after that.
“Then in the Semi-Final, Katie Power’s goal was the difference really between the two of us.”
Dolan has played in four All-Irelands, two each at Minor and Under 16 level and has a 50 per cent return, one at either age group. It’s not a bad record.
“Not bad, no.” comes the automatic, polite response.
Then the truth.
“The first year Minor was a replay. We had a load of injuries then for the replay. We should have won it that day. Those things stick out in your mind. The loss is the one that sticks out in my mind.”
One can imagine her, an old lady in a nursing home in 70 years.
“Thinking of the Minor All-Ireland, yeah”, she laughs.
The hatred of defeat is common in winners however. And that is what Galway yearn to be.
“It would be nice to bring back some silverware to Galway, for the young people looking up. I remember in 2013, I was 14 watching Galway win the All-Ireland. It’s something that stands out for me.
“We need something to build from for the young people but for ourselves too, to prove to people that this isn’t a Galway team that’s going to underperform every time. We’re well able to stand up. We just have to prove it to ourselves.”