By Eanna O’Reilly
Galway forward Ailish O’Reilly has no doubt they are capable of scaling the same heights they reached in 2019.
‘‘We want to win the All-Ireland. We definitely want to make up for the disappointment of last year [a final defeat to Kilkenny]. I want to give 100 per cent commitment to my club Oranmore Maree and county this year, and I really hope the calendar allows me to do that,’’ said O’Reilly.
The calendar has been a controversial subject recently in camogie, with county players opposing the structure proposed by the Camogie Association. Unlike the GAA and LGFA, the Camogie Association proposed a calendar comprising the National League from May to June, immediately followed by the club season from June to September. It was proposed that the inter-county All-Ireland championship would begin in the Autumn, after the conclusion of the club season.
A recent survey of county players, conducted by the GPA, showed that 82 per cent were against the idea. The GPA has proposed a strike of players in the National League, should the association fail to reverse its decision.
O’Reilly’s view is that the split season is the best option. ‘‘Last year’s format was great. I don’t know why they’d go away from it now after it worked so well. We are the only sport [in Gaelic games] to do the opposite to everyone else. I really don’t think player welfare is being considered.”
For O’Reilly, the solitude of training alone made for a long winter, as it did for so many athletes across Ireland.
‘‘It was very tough to keep up the motivation. You’re out on your own running every day and you’ve no one to help push you on or compete against to set standards.
“You’ve no access to gyms, the weather conditions were so bad, and all of the pitches were closed because of Covid-19. You’re having to do it all on your own.’’
The return to collective training in recent weeks has provided a sense of normality and routine. Going into her ninth year on the Galway panel, the four-time All-Star has a renewed appreciation for the team environment and the physical and psychological benefits it brings.
‘‘Seeing the girls, chatting, and having the craic at training; it’s great to be back. It’s something that’s great for our mental health as well; training can really take our minds off the whole pandemic situation we’re all in.’’
The end of the long winter and imminent return of Gaelic games action has lifted people’s spirits nationwide, and two-time All-Ireland winner O’Reilly is enthused by it all. She is hoping this year will see Galway match past accomplishments.
‘‘2013 [All-Ireland win] was really special. It was my first year and we ended a long drought for Galway. But for me, the 2019 win was the best day ever,” she added.
Galway begin their 2021 National League campaign tomorrow, with a home game against Clare.
For more Galway Pulse stories click here.