‘It’s frustrating. There needs to be change’ – Dublin camogie captain echoes team-mate’s calls

IT WAS THIS day last week that Dublin camogie star Eve O’Brien delivered a passionate argument for change.

Dublin defender and 20×20 ambassador Laura Twomey.

Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

She had a lot to get off her chest, and felt that many camogie players would agree with her thoughts. The Na Fianna defender called for change, and fast, as she hit out at the archaic rules and other issues around the sport, and association in general.

Players’ physicality has outgrown the rule book; the game has changed and evolved over the years. There’s huge demand for shouldering to be introduced, obsolete rules like the handpass goal, for one, to be axed and as for the skorts… they have to go.

Those were just three of the main issues O’Brien spoke at length about. And it’s fair to say that when she said the players are crying out for change, she meant it. 

The articles, and tweets in agreement, were shared time and time again by club and inter-county camogie players across the length and breadth of the country.  

The weekend came and went, the Camogie Association and other higher powers staying silent, as expected. Then came Monday. The launch of the new 20×20 campaign.

If you haven’t heard about it by now, in short it’s an exciting initiative with three main aims: to increase media coverage, boost attendances and ultimately, grow involvement in female sport by 20% by the end of 2020.

A positive, insightful morning of conversation as the curtain was opened and 20×20 was unveiled to the Irish public. There was talk of the need for change and progression, underlined by problems and negative attitudes, perhaps brought to life most starkly by 18-time All-Ireland champion Rena Buckley.

Of course, there was a lot of positivity and constructive stories to be told and listened to in the interviews with the ambassadors that followed, but likewise, there were problems and issues to be discussed and highlighted. 

O’Brien’s captain, teammate and fellow 2017 co-skipper Laura Twomey — more than pleased to be chosen as AIG’s representative for the campaign — is almost finished her media duties for the day but happily obliges to a quick one-on-one interview before she hits the road.

She’s upbeat and optimistic as she speaks about 20×20, Dublin Camogie, life both on and off the pitch, being a role model, so on, so forth. The departure of David Herity is touched on, as is the addition of Philly McMahon as Head of Performance.

The six-time All-Ireland champions’ company BeDo7 is forming a partnership with the Dublin Camogie set-up and he’ll oversee the strength and conditioning of all squads from U14 to senior.

Strength and conditioning. Physicality. How much the game has evolved. Here we go. 

“What are your thoughts on the rules, so?”

“Yeah,” she nods. “It’s frustrating…”

Eve O’Brien last week.

Source: Sam Barnes/SPORTSFILE

“I was chatting to Eve last week and she came down fairly hard….”

“Rightly so,” she cuts in. “I’d echo Eve in what she said there and I think everybody would if they had their chance.

“It’s infuriating to see on the biggest day of the year that the game is stop-start all the way. Even neutrals watching it, they’re commentating saying, ‘God, they’re not letting them flow, they’re not letting girls show what they can do.’

“Refs are pulling up on everything. The physicality has just… girls are so fast and so strong, even compared to when I started out. The speed of it is just unbelievable. They’re just not being let play and not being let hurl. Nothing is really flowing anymore. When you’re on the pitch, it’s frustrating.”

Anyone who watched the All-Ireland senior final between Cork and Kilkenny on the second Sunday in September will agree that what should have been an excellent spectacle between the two top teams in the country was pretty much destroyed by the painful stop-start nature of proceedings.

The uproar which followed said it all.

But no matter how frustrating it must be for spectators and viewers, that surely can’t compare to the players on the ground.

“It’s just every couple of seconds basically, there’s a stoppage,” Twomey sighs.

“You get annoyed at the referee because they’re the person in front of you that’s blowing the whistle but at the end of the day — I know some of them might be a bit stickier than others in terms of the actual frees that they’re pulling up — their hands are tied by the rules.

“I don’t know how many rules there are in the game of camogie, but I would back Eve again on that. There needs to be change.

“We had provincial meetings around rule changes earlier on in the year. You go and put forward your point of view on behalf of teams but a lot of times, it doesn’t feel like you’re being listened to.

“Certain rules can only be changed every kind of three years and this kind of craic. You’re like, ‘We’re the players on the ground here, we want a physical game.’ It’s irritating that way. There just seems to be this kind of prevention, a massive discord between players and the organisation.

“There should be a board of players that are allowed meet on a regular basis and convey their opinion. If you don’t keep it current to what’s going on on the ground, then how can you evolve as an organisation and as a game?

“Even you see with the men’s, the football and hurling, their games are changing. Rules are much more fluid in that they change every couple of months nearly. Ours just seem so slow to react to what’s going on and the improvements that are going on at ground level.”

‘They’re just not being let play and not being let hurl.’

Source: Presseye/Lorcan Doherty/INPHO

Her frustration, just like O’Brien’s last Thursday morning, comes out more and more as she delves deeper into the issues she holds.

The 28-year-old secondary school teacher agrees unanimously with her teammate’s thoughts on shouldering, skorts and the handpass goal, among others, but which exactly is the most frustrating?

She’s unsure on that one.

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“There’s a number of things like,” Twomey continues. “I suppose the physicality is one thing, not being able to tackle – you feel like any tackle you make now, you’re going to be pulled up on but it’s the inconsistency as well between games.

“Again, you’re nearly tailoring what way you play depending on what referee you get. There’s a limited number of referees reffing camogie games. You kind of know what’s coming.

“I think the handpass goal just takes away so much from the skill of the game. I think it just demoralises everything and highlights a bit of an opinion towards women in sport. It’s basically saying that you don’t have the skill to strike it into the net.

“If that was eliminated, you’d see a lot more exciting goals. Some handpass goals are good but it’s impossible to defend against. I just think it takes away from the skill of the actual sport.

“Obviously the skort is a controversial one as well, You even see with the launch of the new (Dublin) jersey, the four (players) are in shorts. Girls and fellas. You’re like, ‘Oh, that looks nice…’ Even to have the option to wear one of them rather than being categorised into, ‘No, this is what you’re doing and it’s because of an old-age rule.’”

What about training on say, a Tuesday or a Thursday night, surely players just wear shorts?

“Yeah, that’s the thing,” she interjects. “You might get the one or two wearing skorts training but like, you can move freer in shorts, I would find anyway.

“It’s different then, you train a couple of times a week and then for the match, you’re pulling on a skort like. All of our team nearly would wear shorts training.

“There’s a lot of frustrating matters on the table. You just wonder how long it’s going to take before any action is taken.”

That’s the thing, isn’t it? Conversation, argument and debate is great and all but at the end of the day, it’s all about action. And that can’t happen without the agreement of all parties. 

As of now though, the higher-ups don’t seem to be willing, or open, to change. Current players sharing articles and voicing their opinions on Twitter comes up in conversation. The calls are most definitely there, Twomey agrees.

“You’d think that the organisation would look at that and say, ‘God, there’s a movement going on there now, we need to act quickly and do something about this.’ It’s just hard to see when anything will be changed.

Ambassadors at the 20×20 launch on Monday.

Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“These have been topics of debate for probably the last three years, I’d say. Players only have a voice at an odd provincial meeting. In order for a rule to be changed in camogie, you have to go through the clubs and the clubs have to put forward a vote. You can’t go directly through your county board. You’ve to wait for the congress meeting and then it depends on delegates there.

“I think there needs to be a serious sit-down with a representative group of current players. I think even ex-players need to get behind them as well and row in. There’s loads of voices there that are being unused and the more we have behind change the better and hopefully people will listen at the top table.”

Even hurlers and sportspeople from different codes and disciplines weighing in drives it on, she adds. She mentions Richie Power as one who aired his frustration on All-Ireland final day. 

Every little helps.

“The more attraction you have, the better and what better, I suppose than hurlers and camogie players getting behind it,” she concludes.

“It’s something that needs to be addressed urgently. People are frustrated at the moment but it’ll end up with people dropping out or just getting sick of it.”

So keep the wheels in motion. Keep this movement, as she calls it, going.

20×20 is a new campaign is calling on the people of Ireland and all those involved in Irish sport and physical activity to get behind female sport in a concerted effort to increase media coverage, boost attendances and ultimately, grow involvement in female sport and physical activity by 20% by the end of 2020. 

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