By Kevin Regan
The turn of the present decade and indeed the latter years of 00’s were incredibly bleak times for the Carlow Senior Camogie Team.
Heavy beatings from lowly opposition were a regular occurrence during that dark age, while as recently as 2011 Carlow struggled to field at adult level.
Five years on and Carlow are now a Division 2 League side and are set to contest a Leinster Intermediate Championship Final against Meath who have recently been promoted to Division 1.
A lot has changed in the past Five years, however one must go back a little further to identify where some of the current leaders first surfaced as glowing underage talent.
A number of people put in the hard yards with the lions share of this panel at the early stages.
People Like Mary Nolan, Nuala Quirke, Linda Kenny, Jack Barcoe, Brendan Kehoe, Mary Smith, Pat O Brien, Sean Sheehan and Multiple others were all involved at grassroots level and their hard work brought All Ireland u16 and Minor titles back to Carlow, which gave the current Management Team some serious talent to operate with at Adult level.
I was fortunate enough myself to be involved in an u16 and Minor management team in 2011 and 2012 in which current stars Kate Nolan, Michelle Nolan, Ali Ruschitzko, Eleanor Treacy and Ciara Quirke all played, and to see these girls go on to achieve what they have in the past few years is just unbelievable.
However, like all good teams a blend of youth and experience is whats needed to succeed, and the likes of Lisa Abbey, Marian Doyle and Tersea Meaney are motivated by the darker times which they were a part of, and they provide the side with the leadership and drive that has seen them progress since 2012.
In 2012 under the stewardship of Mick Lillis and Seamus Kelly, Carlow finally fielded a team. An established group of players, mixed with an array of young talent won the All Ireland Junior B title against Kerry.
A Division 4 League Title win followed in 2013, before Kelly managed the side to an All Ireland Junior A Final in 2014 where they just came up short on the day.
However, last year Carlow really began to send shockwaves throughout the country in a year which saw Mark Brennan appointed as Manager.
A Division 3 League title over Dublin was followed by a Leinster Junior Crown and the biggest of all, the All Ireland Junior A title win over Kerry completed the Hat Trick.
Under the Management of Mark Brennan, Petey Shaw, Andrew Gaule and Sean Balfe, these girls have a backroom team that many Senior Men’s teams would give their right arm to have over them.
The attention to detail that these guys bring is second to none, and in the current revolution of the world of Strength and Conditioning, the girls couldn’t possibly ask for any more in terms of both fitness, nutrition and expertise.
This year Carlow have upped the ante yet again, and after wins over Kildare, Kilkenny, Down and Wexford, they found themselves in a Division 2 Semi Final.
In that game they just came up short against a Meath side who went on to gain promotion to Division 1 and whom Carlow face in less than 3 weeks time in the Leinster Intermediate Camogie Final.
The route in which Carlow have had to take in order to reach the final was extremely difficult.
A replayed win over Laois and more heroics in defeating Kilkenny for the 2nd time this year all came within 7 days, with both those counties set to operate in the All Ireland Intermediate Championship later this summer, which is a grade higher than where Carlow will operate from; and this echo’s just how big those wins were.
The frustrating part of this story is that these girls are not getting the support they so richly deserve. Their efforts and progression is remarkable and yet it’s the same few die hard supporters who are at every game.
In fact, these girls have provided more value for money than any of the Carlow Senior Men’s teams this year and their performances have put their male counterparts to shame in many ways, in terms of the progress they are making and the goals which they are achieving.
I would urge everyone to get out and support this group of girls, because they are a team that are going places and getting there at a serious rate of knots.
The scary thing is that that these girls have the potential to take things a lot further and I for one would not be surprised in the slightest if they were to go on and contest an All Ireland in Croke Park in the not too distant future.
Watch this Space.