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Changes aplenty as Dublin camogie enters new era

It’s been a hectic few months for the Dublin Senior Camogie side, losing their five-time All-Ireland winning manager, Kilkenny’s David Herity, to the Kildare hurlers, before recently securing the services of Frank Browne for the forthcoming season. Browne has previously managed both the Mayo Ladies Footballers and the county’s hurlers, and so is richly experienced across both codes. Entering her second year on the senior panel, a key player in the quest to build on recent progress in the All-Ireland series will be midfielder, Roisin Baker. Though disappointed that Herity will not be at the helm for the 2019 season, Baker is swift to pledge her support to the new appointment.

“Absolutely (happy with the appointment of Frank Browne) yeah. He’s a man with a lot of experience managing different teams. He had a good handle over the Mayo ladies team a couple of years ago, you’re more than happy to see anyone with that kind of experience come on board.”

Browne’s experience across different codes is seen by Baker as an advantage more than anything else, and is consistent with a trend seen in GAA circles nowadays, with managers trying their hand at different genres, be they switching from football to hurling/camogie, or vice versa, and indeed working with both female and male teams.

“I think the way that the game has developed, management doesn’t need to be from one code in particular, we’ve seen with Jim McGuinness with Donegal, he’s gone into soccer, managers are managers, it’s the way they control the team, how they demand respect from the players. I think anybody with experience, regardless of code, if you know what you’re doing, if you’re a peoples’ person, you’ll be good at the job.”

Dublin have made serious progress in recent years, and will be boosted further by their Premier Junior side winning the All-Ireland this year. Baker herself was a member of the Junior side that reached the final in 2017, and is adamant that such strides made by the second tier team can only benefit the county at the top table in the long run.

“It’s so exciting. I’ve only been involved the last year, obviously playing for Dublin is something we’ve always wanted to do, and I’m lucky that I’ve come at a time when we’re doing some ground-breaking stuff, with regards to Dublin camogie compared with the last ten or twenty years. That’s why there’s such a competitive element to it, because of the progress we’re making. It’s creating a culture there, that everyone who slots into the team senses from the offset, just how competitive it is, and just how far we can go. The belief is there, as well, and that’s contagious, so it’s really great to be involved.”

“I was fortunate enough, I played with the junior team last year, and I was water girl with them this year, so I was on the pitch when they won. It was absolutely brilliant, everyone was delighted for them. There’s a couple of young girls there who are absolutely gunning for a position on the senior team. We’re excited to have them, they’ve got the experience, and they’ve got hunger, that’s all you can ask for in a group of young girls who are fit and raring to go.”

Previous Dublin camogie sides have lacked the consistency, the depth or perhaps even the commitment to challenge the top brass in the game at the highest level. Though they exited the championship rather meekly this year, with a 16 point loss to Galway in the quarter final, overall, progress is being made, and it is widely acknowledged that, no different to other codes, a strong Dublin is needed to ensure the sport thrives.

“There’s a hunger amongst us, we want it ourselves and it’s only ourselves that can do it, managers can direct us in the right direction obviously, but, it’s up to ourselves to do the hard work and we were willing to put in the hard work whether we had someone over us or not. We weren’t sure how quickly we’d be able to get a manager, but we were going to hit the gym anyway and get started on that, but thankfully there’s somebody there to direct us now and we’re all looking forward to rowing in under him now.”

“I think the last few years of bad luck or whatever it is has caused a lot of girls to come and go and jump out of the team, so there is a core group of a couple of girls who’ve been there for the last ten years probably, but there’s been drop ins and drop outs, but now that we’re kind of getting going, people are more inclined to stay, we’re starting to mesh together and it’s not just five people preaching from the same page, it’s starting to become all 25 of us preaching from the same page, I think that’s what separates the teams, everyone knows exactly what job they have to do when they come on the pitch, whether they start or whether they come on with five minutes to go. Everybody kind of has the same mind-set and the training is more competitive, whereas in the past maybe, a couple of girls are guaranteed their spot, because of how good they are. But now, if you want your spot, you have to prove that you are the best on the team.”

The bitterly disappointing defeat to Galway last year has left a sour taste, the manner in which they were defeated showed that they did not do themselves justice, and the margin was not a reflection on the standards they have set for themselves. Rather than lingering onto such regretful memories, this side has chosen to use the episode as a motivational tool, to ensure that capitulations are avoided in the future.

“You lose games, that’s the nature of the sport, but to lose in that manner was quite disheartening. We felt we didn’t do ourselves justice, we didn’t do Dave and the team justice, with all the work that they’d put in, and all the hours we put in ourselves, on the pitch and the gym, and we just didn’t show up on the day, and that is something we need to work on, again, it comes from experience and having leaders on the pitch, as well as a good manager on the side-line.”

The Na Fianna club-woman is rich in her praise of Herity, and the impact he and his backroom team have had. There is little doubt that Dublin are within touching distance of the top 3 or 4 sides, yet work remains to bridge that gulf. With an influx of Junior All-Ireland winning players, and a unified, collective mind-set, there is no reason why Frank Browne and his charges cannot build on the progress made, and challenge for the big prizes.

“We owe David a lot, for the turnaround that he has contributed to in Dublin camogie, the last few years. I was excited to have him back for another year, disappointed then when he couldn’t come back. Frank has big shoes to fill from David, but I’ve no doubt that he can fill those shoes. The Kildare hurlers can expect a very good coach in David, tough but fair. If you work hard for him, you can honestly ask him what do I need to work on, and he’ll tell you honestly. He’s a good laugh as well when you need him to be. He’ll instil faith in them, and that’s one of the greatest things a team can get from a manager.”

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