“I’D NEVER BEEN at a match”
It wasn’t mean to be this way for Joe Quaid. In September 2012, he was basking in the glory of an All-Ireland triumph with his Limerick U16s, a group of lads he had led for three years.
The following day, he was informed that he had been overlooked to take over as manager of the minors for 2013. Extremely disappointed with the decision of the club delegates in Limerick, he declined the position of selector and moved on.
“We deserved – we are not entitled to anything, but I think we deserved a shot at bringing these kids forward,” he told the local press shortly afterwards.
So how did he go from that disappointment to end up in charge of Limerick’s camogie team, having never watched a game before?
“I got involved by default,” he said. “I planned to be up here with our minors this year because I had them for three years. We didn’t get the minor job so that’s when I took on the camogie then.”
Fast forward two years and Quaid has finds himself riding the crest of a green and white camogie wave in Limerick. They are chasing a third All-Ireland camogie title this year, having already claimed the minor and junior titles.
“A year like this will never again happen in Limerick camogie. There’s some of them girls hopefully Sunday week will have minor, junior and intermediate All-Irelands medals in one year.
“That’s a lifetimes medal haul by the time they are 18.”
Twice a Munster championship winner and a two-time Allstar during his goalkeeping days with the Treaty County in the ’90s and early ’00s, this was Quaid’s first time to be involved with a women’s team of any description.
“I suppose the first thing is: the way you speak has to be a lot different. Innuendo can be picked up a different way but I suppose it took a while to get used to it, to realise that they wanted to be treated the same as the fellas are treated. No sugarcoating.
“The one thing I’ve noticed is that, we tried to break them a few times this year and run them into the ground at training.”
He spoke of savage training sessions that went on for up to two and a half hours in an attempt to test his players mentally, as much as physically.
“We just had to stop. They beat us. They were walking around the field and they talking away and yapping. We were wrecked from watching them.
“But the level of training they do and are capable of doing is just phenomenal. When you’re talking to them, you know they’re listening.
“Jesus Christ. I held tackle bags for them one night and I wasn’t able to walk for two days after it. They actually hurt me like.
“I’d hate to be married to one of them and go home and tell them you lost your wages on a horse. You’d get a fair bating off them I’d say,” he joked.
Quaid’s eyes lit up when he spoke about the ability of Limerick’s gifted defender Sarah Carey, the 21-year-old daughter of his former team-mate Ciarán Carey.
“I see Sarah Carey now, she’s Ciarán’s daughter. She’s centre-back and she’s like watching Ciarán. She just (runs) up the field, weaving in and out.
“As I said to Ciaran I said, ‘You wouldn’t lace her boots.’ We coined a phrase, when she hits people that you’ve been ‘Carey-’ed’. She’s only 21, she’s some hurler. She’d make most men’s teams.”
Sarah’s father and Quaid soldiered together for Limeick’s seniors for 11 years. They were beaten in All-Ireland finals in ’94 and ’96, the first of which was the Shannonsiders’ infamous late collapse to Offaly.
In his first year in charge of this squad, Limerick were beaten in the All-Ireland intermediate final to Galway. From experience he understands it doesn’t guarantee they will go one step further the following year.
“Well as I’ve said; I’ve two of them lost there as a player. But losing one doesn’t guarantee you that you’ll win the next one. Jesus, tis 20 years since ’94 since I played here in that famous Offaly game. And 20 years passes quick.
“Listen, my time is come and gone. I’m not going to be going up the steps but, it would be brilliant for the girls. I see the work they’ve put. They’ve actually trained harder than the Limerick senior hurlers. “
“I know that, because I’ve seen the the hurlers training and I’ve seen us training. We’ve been out nights in Rathkeale, we’ve started first and the senior hurlers have been training. They come out, they’re gone home, we’re still there. It’s three or four nights a week.”
Quaid and his players got into a huddle in front of Hill 16 when they lost the final last year, and made a promise to return even stronger in 2014. An All-Ireland defeat was tough for him to take, but they’ve bounced back and are ready to make up for lost time.
“Listen, we’re used to it in Limerick. I’m 42 years on this earth and I’ve never seen a Limerick person climb up the steps of the Hogan Stand.
He might have envisioned himself walking up those hallowed steps with the minors last weekend, but instead Quaid finds himself on the verge of leading Limerick’s camogie stars to an All-Ireland title in Croke Park.
“The best way I could describe camogie and look, I was as ignorant to it as the next person before last year, is it’s hurling in its purest form – without the cynicism.
“All the girls want to do is win the ball.”
He wouldn’t have it any other way.