St Rynagh's Camogie players “devastated and infuriated”

Dismay at cancellation of 2020 provincial and All-Ireland club championships

St Rynagh's Camogie players “devastated and infuriated”

St Rynagh's players watch on as Gailltir celebrate victory in the 2019 All-Ireland intermediate camogie final last March.

ST Rynagh's Camogie Club have reacted with dismay and anger to a decision to cancel the 2020 Leinster and All-Ireland Intermediate and Senior Club Championships.

The Offaly senior champions had been training in the expectation that the championships would proceed when Covid-19 restrictions allowed it. However, they were stunned when news came through earlier this week that the competitions have been cancelled in the wake of a national poll among clubs.

“We are devastated and infuriated with this decision”, said the players in a signed and emotional statement that was released last night.

The six clubs left in the provincial senior club championships, Loughiel, Drom and Inch, Thomastown, Inagh Kilnamona, Sarsfields and Oulart- The Ballagh, have also called on the camogie association to complete the 2020 competitions. In a letter, they suggested that they be completed in June with the final on the last weekend of the month. They also suggested that counties in the National Leagues should line out without players from their club championships.

St Rynagh's looked like they would get to compete in the provincial championships earlier this month when the national Camogie Association proposed that the intercounty National Leagues would commence on May 15, followed by the AIB Club Championships and then the All-Ireland inter-county championship. The club championships would have been competed in the original schedule proposed by Central Council, however, the fixtures plan approved by clubs this week does not cater for the completion of the 2020 competitions.

After outlining their original proposals, the Camogie Association then undertook a poll of clubs to determine the make up of their calendar and the results of this came through last week. 62% of clubs voted with 53% voting for option two which means that the intercounty championships will now be run after the National Leagues and will then be followed by the club championships. Option 1 had been the National Leagues, followed by club championships and then the inter-county championship and 47% voted for this.

The decision means that the Camogie Association will follow their GAA colleagues with the opening months of the season devoted to inter-county and then the club championships starting when they are completed.

St Rynagh's had been fixed to play Wexford's Rathnure in the Leinster intermediate championship but the results of the recent poll resulted in the 2020 competitions being cancelled. The national association have promised to “respect and implement” the mandate from club members. “Planning will start immediately at National and County level to maximise camogie activity for all players throughout 2021. The next steps for the Camogie Association are to detail the fixtures structure, collaborate with our colleagues in the GPA in relation to the feedback from our clubs, and work with broadcast partners to try and ensure maximum coverage possible for all of our Camogie on 2021”, they said in a statement last week.

However, St Rynagh's have been left frustrated and deeply disappointed as their plans have been thrown out the window.

In their statement, the players said: “As players from St. Rynagh’s camogie club, we are devastated and infuriated with this decision. An association who pride themselves on creating an inclusive, enjoyable, vibrant, lifelong camogie experience through their club fixtures, has now completely closed the door off to its members at the core of its association. As players who have given so much to their club, and received even more in return, it’s hard to imagine how we can be treated with such blatant disregard.

“After winning a hard-fought battle on September 26th 2020 in our county final, we have put in countless hours of at-home, in isolation training with the belief that the association would uphold their promise of the 2020 AIB provincial and All-Ireland championships.

“As a club and as a group of players we have huge respect for the work being done at a national level to try and run the camogie leagues and championships as smoothly as possible given the adverse environment we have found ourselves in once again. Faced with lockdown after lockdown over the past 12 months, the vast majority of our training has taken place in our own front gardens; slogging through the winter months and struggling through the mental blocks that is training in isolation without any access to facilities. But we prevailed. As all teams have. But the one overarching thing that seen us through the long months of training alone was the promise of the AIB provincial and All Ireland club championships taking place as soon as we could return to action.

“Having respected all government guidelines and all restrictions in place by the camogie association, we were beyond ourselves getting back to the field as a team on Monday May 10th with the Leinster quarter final as a constant goal in our minds. Within 18 hours of training the devastation hit. Without even a formal announcement from the association our whole vision, sacrifice and months of training in silence were shattered. And for what reason? Why is it that the association has shown such disregard for its club players? As devoted players to our club, where we all start and end our careers, St. Rynagh’s camogie club has a huge stronghold over not only our camogie careers but also in shaping us players as people who proudly represent our club and if we’re lucky to get the opportunity, our county.

“Any sporting hero we’ve ever looked up to has named representing their club as the pinnacle of their career. Why should we not all get the same opportunity? Why after months of being promised the chance to represent our club at provincial level did the association axe the competition with not so much as an email to that regard to the clubs and players involved? It begs the question of the ambitions of the camogie association? Are inclusivity, enjoyability, vibrancy and longevity no longer attainable within the association as total disregard has now been shown for clubs all over Ireland. Being a small percentage of the camogie population it’s hard to get our voices heard. It’s even harder when the ‘big names’ of the association took to social media to support ‘option 2’.

“Who is there to stand up for us? Nobody only ourselves, we’ve been left stranded without even acknowledgment from the association as to the championship we have been promised. At this point, we as players just want to get out and play. We’ve gone months without camogie, without seeing our team mates, and to now be faced with not being able to complete what kept us focused and driven. What is the point? Why have we spent so long training in isolation to be disregarded like this? What do we say to our young club players who have watched on in awe as we compete on behalf of our club at provincial level? How can we justify this treatment from the association to the young girls we train every Saturday Morning? How do we encourage them to keep playing camogie, when we’re beginning to question our devotion to the game ourselves? It's not just a series of games we’re concerned with anymore, it’s our whole community, the prospect of a provincial series has kept our club and community going over the last 8 months. Do we not deserve the same courtesy as the ‘big names’ of the association to have our voices heard? Le dea-ghuí, The St. Rynagh’s Camogie Team.”

The decision comes during an eventful week for camogie and their ladies football colleagues witht he Government announcing that female inter-county camogie and ladies football players will receive the same funding as GAA footballers and hurlers.

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