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The championship campaign that began in 2020 and is finishing just before 2022

‘Sure, what else would you want to be doing the week before Christmas? It’s brilliant.’

Sarsfields (Galway) and Oulart The Ballagh (Wexford) go head-to-head this weekend.
Sarsfields (Galway) and Oulart The Ballagh (Wexford) go head-to-head this weekend.
Image: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE

THE 2020/21 AIB All-Ireland senior club camogie final has been a long time coming.

At one stage, it looked like it would never be completed.

But after a well-documented battle, the final takes place on Saturday at Nowlan Park, with reigning champions Slaughtneil and two-time winners Oulart-The-Ballagh of Wexford doing battle just a few days out from Christmas.

It’s certainly unique, to say the least, with confusion in some quarters that a championship campaign that began in 2020 will just about be finished by 2022.

“A lot of people have said that. But to be honest, it doesn’t feel strange at all,” Sarsfields and Galway star Siobhan McGrath says. “I think we’re just delighted to even be able to play it.

“We had to fight so hard in the first place to get this competition reinstated. So we’re absolutely over the moon, to be honest, to even be in this in this situation. It looked for a long time that we wouldn’t get the chance.

“The fact that it’s us and Oulart that are in the final, it’s nice because out of all the senior teams, I think we were the two teams that were pushing it the most, trying to get it played. It’s nice that all the hard work off the pitch has come to fruition now.”

Oulart’s Shauna Sinnott agrees, saying it was “touch and go” amidst the uncertainty and doubts — and rather deflating after all the work and effort put in.

But those involved stuck to their guns and made their voices heard.

“That’s the great power of social media,” she nods. “Ourselves, a lot of the girls from Sarsfields were trying to get the importance out there of the club championship.

“It’s an amazing competition. If it was brushed aside, I don’t think it would be a good reflection on camogie. The club is where it all starts. That’s where players feed into county. Some of the club matches in the last few weeks have been outstanding. It just shows the level of camogie that is there.”

Saturday’s action [throw in 1.30pm] will be live on RTÉ Two, a move both players hail.  For Sinnott, streaming and live coverage is “one of the positives that has come out of the pandemic,” bringing more awareness to the game.

McGrath, meanwhile, thinks of the older generation from the club that might not be able  travel; they watched them lift the silverware from afar in 2019, and she hopes they’ll do so again.

“It gave it so much extra exposure,” she adds. “And I think that’s down to as well the likes of AIB, they’re doing unbelievable work sponsoring both the male and the female competitions. It kind of just shows as well what happens when you have a joint sponsor for the male and the female general.

“I think it’s something the intercounty game could look at; how successful the club championship has been because of the sponsorship by AIB.”

“It was disappointing this year, 2021, the Camogie Association had no sponsor for the senior inter-county championship,” she continues. “But I saw recently that the GAA are kind of taking over their administration for the sponsorship so that can only lead to, you’d imagine, bigger and better things for camogie.”

With Nowlan Park staging the action, rather than Croke Park like in recent years, Sinnot laughs that, “We’d play it in the back garden now at this stage, to be honest,” her happy-go-lucky attitude shining through again, as she talks about lining out the weekend before Christmas.

A look at the fixtures originally brought some dread about the cold, wet, and poor pitches, but so far, so good.

“As long we get to play in an All-Ireland, I don’t think the girls would mind if it’s on Christmas Day,” she grins.

So the perfect Christmas present for the winners?

“It would alright, yeah,” McGrath beams. “I suppose that’s only if we win like. It’d be tough one to take if we were to lose and you’re heading into Christmas then so soon afterwards.

“It’s class to even be playing at this time of the year like on pitch like Nowlan Park. Sure, what else would you want to be doing the week before Christmas? It’s brilliant.”

About the author:

Emma Duffy

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