The Glen Dimplex All Ireland Camogie Championship finals are on at Croke Park on Sunday and the sport is hoping for a big turnout, a week after the TG4 Ladies Football Finals drew a crowd of 46,440.
For the past few years, Camogie’s attendance on the big day has lagged behind but with over 100,000 registered players, that should not be a permanent second place.
Indeed there is something particularly fervent about Hurling and Camogie folk, brooking no argument about which is truly the best Gaelic game of them all. It needs to bring some of the passion it brings to the sport on the pitch into the stands, and make the sporting public sit up and take notice.
It needs to find its Camogie Passionistas who will scream their hearts out in support of not only their team but their sport.
we sat down with Camogie Association Sinéad McNulty to chat about the season gone and what can be looked to in the future.
How has the season been in terms of engagement with inter-county in a different earlier time frame than what we have been used to?
The compact nature of the season, combined with alignment across the four Gaelic games field sports codes has been exciting, and also tricky.
We are all competing for spectators, broadcast viewership, column inches in print media, playing facilities, referees, volunteer time and space and for us, in the female codes we also have dual players to consider. So it has certainly been challenging.
Between all competitions in camogie our inter-county players, and the coordination team behind inter-county fixtures, have been in weekend action consistently since January.
We love it, of course, but it has been rapid-fire, with little space for recovery – so we will all take time to reflect after the Championship concludes.
Has the mood among players, coaches and officials that this earlier split season worked?
It really depends on who you speak to, and their personal perspective or experience of it in 2022.
Really this is the first full calendar year of the split season as for five months last year – 2021 – there was no on-field activity permitted. So we will need to bring it through to the final games to be able to fully adjudicate.
It brings benefits certainly having clarity in which is the inter-county and the club season.
In camogie, we have many young players who play inter-county, so running off all of the inter-county championship competitions, in the same six month window, including second teams and dual players can be tricky.
In 2021 for the AIB Camogie club championship we were very lucky with the winter weather – we didn’t lose any games to inclement weather conditions, which could often happen from October through to February.
Bear in mind also that in the last 12-month period we are running 3 years of club championship competition – 2020, 2021 and 2022.
The idea was to provide clubs with a long summer of weekends to run off their club championships, and the Inter-County players wanted to have a clear inter-county season.
The Littlewoods National League was run over a short and intense window, followed immediately by Provincial Championships, and moved straight into Glen Dimplex All Ireland Championships.
Some of the challenges we see include inter-county players who get injured, not having much recovery time; challenges in managing logistics from pitches to referees due to how many events are on at the same time across the country across multiple sports.
Club and inter-county players have also wanted to travel for the first time in three years so all these things need to be taken into account.
We will work through it, and review all aspects, for both club and county players and engage with our members in reviewing it.
What is the expectation for Sunday in terms of attendance at Croke Park and viewership on TV?
It’s quite tricky to predict the attendance numbers, given the DAA stats on how many people are travelling out of the country every day to their sun holidays.
We are working hard to promote the games, and want to call out once more to every member of our camogie community and every club to come to Croke Park and make it a day to remember for all teams.
With over 100,000 members, if every member came to Croke Park this Sunday we would have more than a full house – that is what we would like to say – and that is what our athletes should be experiencing – a full house in Croke Park.
It is wonderful to have secured the long-term broadcasting deal with RTE to broadcast our games live – so as the national broadcaster we expect that a huge crowd will also tune in from wherever they are to watch if they are unable to make the games in person.
How has it been working with the Glen Dimplex team in year one of your partnership?
Our partnership with Glen Dimplex is an exciting one for the Camogie Association and we have worked closely throughout the year to build our relationship and commence a strategy that will be synergistic for both of our organisations.
The Glen Dimplex team are fantastic to work with – consummate professionals. Their commitment to the partnership, to the Camogie Association and their in-built energy and drive are fantastic to work with.
As they say “this is the start of a beautiful friendship”
What have you learned that can be adopted to continue growing the sport over the coming years?
Planning, planning, planning… and continuous improvement!
‘Every day is a school day’ is one of my personal mottos. A commitment to lifelong learning is something that you have to have – particularly working in sports as things are moving and changing all of the time.
Every time we have a plan, we deliver it and review it – learning how we can improve that plan the next time. No matter how good things are, we can always be better,
Perhaps the most important thing is remaining curious – our players and teams are always trying new things to get the edge over their opponents, the world of women’s sport is moving at a huge pace in all aspects right now, from performance to marketing to investment and development.
Watching the world of sport and the world of business, understanding how to optimise personal experiences of our sport, observing the impacts of small changes to reach new audiences and attract more people to try, to learn and ultimately to play our games – that is what we are learning and adopting right now.
Programmes such as ‘Hurl with Me’, ‘MNA´Caman and chats’ programmes came from seeing what was happening on the ground in our clubs, thinking about how we can get more people involved, trialling the ideas, refining them and now we have hundreds of clubs across the country delivering these innovative programmes – bringing Camogie to new children and adults every day.
Is it a challenge or a pain being compared to Ladies Football in terms of their numbers of players and those who attend Croke Park?
Human nature compares and contrasts everything – even saying those words transports me back to leaving cert English.
We work closely throughout the year with the LGFA, and there are lots of similarities – we are both membership-based, volunteer-led, female team, amateur sports organisations in the Gaelic Games family.
The Camogie Association is rapidly approaching its 125 birthday and has all of that wonderful tradition, history and heritage at its foundation. That enabled us to achieve UNESCO Heritage Sport Status on the world stage.
Yet we have some counties without camogie on the island of Ireland. So our challenge is to break any preconceptions that people have about the sport; to show people – and let them experience how they can take up the sport without previously having played it. The skills are all learnable, and our job is to reduce the barriers to people playing our game, both real and perceived.
In terms of numbers attending – I call on all of our membership – the whole 100,000 of them, to support their sport, to bring their family and friends and experience the magic, the noise, the buzz of the Camogie All Ireland Final on Sunday 7th August. It’s the last All Ireland Championship in Croke Park this year – and promises to bring three thrilling games. Don’t miss it.
It is not just a numbers game and comparison is the enemy of joy but Camogie does need to find the passion to show the world how great it is beyond the pitch and the individual teams. Getting a gang together and heading to Croke Park on Sunday would be a good way of getting going.
Passionistas are defined as someone who loves what they believe in and are passionate about selling its virtues. Come on Camógs of Ireland. Show us what you’ve got.