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Dublin: 12 °C Monday 6 April, 2020

Dublin's All-Ireland heroes driven by the camogie rising around the county

Captain Emer Keenan is relishing Sunday’s challenge against Westmeath in the Premier Junior decider.

Keenan: "When the door knocks, you just say you'll give it your all."
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

2017 IS A year that won’t be forgotten in Dublin camogie circles for many, many years to come.

One of the stories of the summer saw David Herity’s senior side beat the much-fancied Wexford to book their first semi-final spot in 27 years.

The underage scene is thriving. Both the U16 and minor teams had successful All-Ireland campaigns, reaching the last four of their respective competitions.

But all eyes are on the Premier Junior side, and on Sunday. They’re flying the flag in Croke Park, and it’s the first time a Dublin camogie team will be in action on the biggest stage in Gaelic games since 2005.

And Emer Keenan is relishing the opportunity that lies ahead.

“Those little things drive us on as well,” the Sky Blues captain tells The42.

“The seniors won that Wexford game the week before we played the semi-final.

To see the emotion and celebrations of the girls after that game, we were standing there saying, ‘We want that next week in our own semi-final.’ It’s the little things that drive you on as well.

“It’s great getting to Croke Park and it’s a great experience but you want to make that experience even sweeter by being the winning team at the final whistle.”

Keenan herself was quite a latecomer to the inter-county scene, making the step up at the age of 27.

She had been involved with underage teams, but then college took over. There was an undergrad, and then a Masters, and all the while she was immersed in club camogie with her beloved Lucan Sarsfields.

Then Dublin came calling again, and when the door knocks, you just say you’ll give it your all and see where it goes,” she smiles.

As she says herself, the Premier Junior team is probably a ‘stepping stone’ for a lot of players making the transition from underage to senior level.

When she first came into the panel, she recalls, it was balanced between youth and experience. In her fifth season, aged 31, Keenan smiles that the tables may be turning a little bit now but she thoroughly enjoys every minute.

“Obviously the goal for any camogie player is to play senior. For every camogie player in Dublin, that’s a goal.

“For myself, the ship has probably sailed. When you see the strength of the underage teams that are coming through, how well the U16s and minors went this year…

No matter what level you’re at, your goal is to play at the highest level that you can.

And that she is.

The Electric Ireland employee led her county through a hard-fought semi-final win over Kerry to book Sunday’s showdown with Westmeath.

While Dublin are in search of their sixth junior title, the Lake County find themselves in their first All-Ireland final.

They’ve come through a tough last four battle to get there, beating last year’s finalists Armagh to book their date.

And interestingly, they’re the only team to have beaten the Dubs this year, in league or championship. That loss came at the end of July, on the last day of the group stages, and there was just a single point between the sides.

“A puck of a ball between us,” Keenan continues. “And no doubt the final will be the same.

“The games that we’ve played over the last couple of years have been very close between ourselves. We’ve won a couple, they’ve won a couple, so it makes for an exciting final.”

And while focused on the 60 minutes between themselves and that coveted All-Ireland title, the Dublin panel are enjoying the build-up and soaking in the atmosphere as the countdown continues.

“There’s a great buzz around. We had our open training session last week and a lot of underage camogie players came out. That was great. It gets that little bit of extra excitement.

“Sometimes you can get caught up in the bubble of your own panel and the game itself, so that kind of opened our eyes a bit to that extra outside excitement that’s around the 10 September.”

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Emma Duffy

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