AT 24 years of age, she may be young but the departure of some of Offaly's best and longest serving camogie players has cast Roisin Egan into a leadership role.
Stalwarts, Michaela Morkan, Lorraine Keena and Linda Sullivan have all departed the scene in the past year or so and the void has resulted in the outstanding Belmont woman resisting the temptation to combine camogie with ladies football.
Egan would be a great asset to the Offaly ladies football team and saying no to them was not easy. She combined both games last year at county level but knew that one or both would suffer if she went down the same road this year.
A member of the alll conquering St Rynagh's side, who have mopped up county, Leinster and All-Ireland honours in the past couple of years, Egan will just play ladies football with her club Naomh Ciaran this year.
Speaking at the recent unveiling of Glenisk as sponsors of Offaly GAA, camogie and ladies football teams, Egan admitted: “I considered going in with the footballers but like that, I just think it is in my own interests to focus on one, rather than doing both. It is great to see that the footballers are doing really well this year, it has come a long way and you can see real progression there. I think I am going to give my sole focus to camogie this year but will still play club football.”
Apart from the divided loyalties and trying to train for both at a high level, the fixtures schedule has often created difficulties for dual ladies football and camogie players.
It worked for Egan last year but she still found the constant going tough.
“I did both last year and it worked out that no games clashed but it's hard in terms of being at training every evening and being fresh and your presence is missed, maybe you could miss camogie on a Friday or miss football on a Sunday, and I think that is the biggest thing this year, that I would have to skip training in both codes for one or the other. There were such leaders with camogie the last 10 years, with Michaela Morkan, Lorraine Keena, Linda Sullivan, those were players that were always there and when I was younger, 17-18, they were always there and they drove us on.
“Now I know I am almost one of the oldest I almost feel I have to be there to set a standard, to set an example of what you expect from an inter county camogie player. I think that is the biggest reason why. I am one of the oldest now within the camogie, even though I am still young at 24. The likes of Sarah Walsh, Aisling Brennan, Grace Teehan, we would nearly be the oldest on the panel and we'd all be around the same age. Siobhan Flannery would be one of the longest serving players, Mairead Teehan is only 26 I think, so still young. I think Michaela and the others served their time and had a right to leave, even though you would say they could still nearly play this year and you would want them there, but for a team that is nearly completely renewed it is great how well it is coming on within a short period of time.”
A sister of former Offaly hurling star Colin Egan, she has enjoyed phenomenal success with St Rynagh's in the past five years and things have reached a spectacular crescendo with All-Ireland success in the past two years
“It's always nice to finish the year off on such a high. After the first All-Ireland I think we still knew we had another level to go. It wasn't like the year was finished or we had achieved something as such, so to get the second was great. It really solidified the year. So coming off that I was nearly eager to still play camogie as I was enjoying it so much. I suppose it is always my ambition to play for my county as well as my club, so I was looking forward to going back into it. At the beginning of the year it was a bit rocky, we lost a lot of senior players but in fairness to Susan and John they have really pulled it together and I think at the moment we are fairly settled with the panel and happy with where we are at.”
It is a transitional period for Offaly camogie. They lost to Kilkenny in the Leinster semi-final and have lost their opening games to Antrim and Galway in the All-Ireland series – their next game is away to Limerick on June 11 and they also have to travel to Kilkenny and Down.
“It is always disappointing to lose and I don't think you can say we are exactly where we want to be yet in terms of we have a lot of things to learn from that game (Kilkenny), but at the same time from where we were we have progressed from the beginning of the year in terms of the panel coming together as a whole. It was very broken up with Rynagh's players coming back in. That was the first big game we had where we had everyone and we went out and did our best. I think there are a lot of positives to take from it and I think it is a good place to move forward from but at the same time I think we know we still have a good bit to improve on.”
She spoke with great passion about St Rynagh's great run.
“We lost the final just before Covid hit in Croke Park and it was so devastating in the way we lost it. Then Covid hit and we had to push to get the first All-Ireland with Covid, as to whether it would be played or not, and in fairness to the management and the club, they really pushed for it. I remember someone saying imagine winning one and then going on and winning another and thinking in my head “come on get realistic”, but it was a few years in the making, it wasn't solely down to the two years.
“Going back to when we won our first county title, there was progression each year. We won the county and lost Leinster, then won county, won Leinster and lost All-Ireland, won county, won Leinster and won the All-Ireland. It was really about a group of girls staying together and really putting your head down. We had everyone and we were all of the same mindset. I think we built a lot of confidence from the first one. I think we did have a great team.
“There were so many standout players on the team but it takes everyone and it takes buying into what the management wants from you and I think that is what we did. Definitely two fond years I will look back on. Even outside camogie, it was the bond formed with the girls and what it did for the parish as well. Someone said, you are doing it for your families, and you know I really felt with that All-Ireland we did it for the club. It was unreal and it was great for Offaly too.”
Outside of Offaly, St Rynagh's have competed in the senior grade but Egan wants them to have a pop at senior level in the Leinster and All-Ireland series – if they can still win the Offaly championship, and she is taking nothing for granted there.
“You hit the nail on the head, Rynagh's aren't into next year's senior club championship yet, you have to get through Offaly first. The Offaly championship is one of the trickiest championships to win, the standard is always good and no final has been easy, but saying that we have played challenge games with senior teams, like Sarsfields and Slaughtneil, and we have been competitive against them. I know it is hard to guage from challenge games but I definitely think any team in Offaly has the ability to compete at senior level.
“I think it is where Offaly camogie should be. Inter county is senior and I wouldn't fear senior club – not saying that we would win it but I think we could do well in it, or any team. It might take a year or two to get used to the challenges, or it might go because we came off such a good progression and you could do well in it but I wouldn't be fearful of being in the senior competition and I think it's great that we are there and it would become boring if we stayed at an intermediate level. To win it twice proves you are good enough to move on. We have that belief there and it is great and I think any team in Offaly could do really well.”
A member of a proud hurling family, she is delighted to see Belmont set up their own underage camogie club.
“It is great now that Belmont have their own camogie club set up underage. The oldest would be under 12s. It is great to see and it will draw in more camogie players. I will definitely support them and maybe in years to come they might have their own senior team. I went down once or twice and there was a great crowd down there. If the club wasn't there probably half of the girls wouldn't even play but the fact the club is there is drawing in girls which is great to see.”
Subscribe or register today to discover more from DonegalLive.ie
Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.
Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.