ORLAITH Duggan cut a lonesome figure at Clare training session in Shannon. The captain, who is from Spancilhill, was fully togged and keen to train but a niggling Achilles tendon injury has kept her on the sideline.
However Duggan, who plays her club camogie for Clooney-Quin, is confident that she will be fit to tog against Dublin on Saturday in Parnell Park.
“When you’re out for a few weeks, you could come to training and you mightn’t speak to anyone,” the speech and language therapist, who works in Ennis, reflected, before realising that maybe things weren’t that bad.
“This is making things sound really depressing,” the NUIG graduate laughed.
The late evening sun was beating down as Trisha O’Grady incessantly roared instructions in the background.
“That’s what you want to be doing, especially on evenings like this. If it was lashing rain, I wouldn’t mind missing training too much. I hope to be togging anyway and to be able to play some bit on Saturday.”
Although only 23 years, Duggan is in her sixth season playing senior camogie for Clare. She doesn’t want to dwell on this but she is approaching the veteran stage in what is a very young panel.
“I’m definitely one of the older members of the squad. There are a few nanas on the panel. There are only a handful of people in their 20s on the team, so you can narrow that down fairly quickly,” she replied, when pressed as to who the ‘nanas’ were.
Musical tastes also appear to vary wildly on the team bus.
“Given the wide age range, some of them are still listening to Hannah Montana. Then there’s a few of them listening to The Beatles. I tend to stick with the charts, trying to keep in with the young ones,” Duggan sagely maintained.
As championship nears, the panel is fed after training, although for most of the year they fend for themselves in that regard. They play for the love of it and not for the luxuries, of which there are few.
“We get sandwiches, tea and coffee in the four or five weeks leading up to championship. That’s one woman, Bríd McNamara, doing it herself. But we don’t have a set-up like Caherlohan. I live not too far from it and it looks lovely from the road. I’ve never been in there,” Duggan revealed.
There are times when it can be frustrating to be a camogie player, when respect for the time they give is not evident.
“People would refer to you as such-and-suches sister or daughter. Máire McGrath is an All-Star and a super player, yet she would still be referred to as Conor McGrath’s sister. People talk about expenses. We have players travelling from Galway, Naas and Templemore and they don’t get a cent. Things like that would annoy you but we don’t do it for those kind of things.
In fairness, the money isn’t there for the camogie. The hurlers bring in an awful lot of revenue and that’s where they get their money. The only way that camogie can get a higher profile is with more backing from the Government. The WGPA have brought in a grant but the sad reality is that our team grant is what one hurler might get in expenses for the year. Even our county finals don’t get played in Cusack Park. We’re playing Dublin most definitely in Parnell Park. We played Cork in Pairc Uí Rinn and Tipp in Thurles,” the Clare captain pointed out.
Clare did play Limerick in Cusack Park in 2016, a game in which Duggan was sent off. It was a rare appearance for the team in the county grounds however.
On a more upbeat note, Duggan feels blessed to have secured work in the speech and language therapy field with the HSE.
“To be working 10 minutes from home is grand. I graduated this time two years ago and I got the job a year ago. The majority of my class went abroad to England or New Zealand. I wanted to stay for a while, while I was able to play.”
Most 23-year-olds would have ventured out for a night or two over the June Bank Holiday weekend. That wasn’t an option for Duggan or her team-mates, some of whom are sitting the Leaving Certificate.
“A lot of my friends have nearly stopped asking me to go places. They probably don’t see sport the way that I do but I’ve been playing with the likes of Chloe [Morey] and Máire for the last eight or nine years. They’re your friends then. They are the people you spend most of your time with and they get it. We definitely have a good bit of craic but there is a hugely committed bunch there as well and there has been for a number of years. It’s just that we haven’t made the breakthrough yet for various reasons. The age profile of the squad dropped dramatically in what seemed like overnight. I hate saying it’s a transition period. I think that’s an excuse but there is a certain amount of transition and you have to give some leeway. It takes two or three years to be able to compete at a higher level. But if there was a transitional period, hopefully, we’re getting to the end of it,” Clare’s midfield leader smiled as the evening closed in.
By Peter O’Connell