Cliona Foley: Munster players dominate camogie's new star scheme
CAMOGIE'S first ever All-Star team was announced yesterday and it was dominated by seven of Tipperary's All-Ireland senior title winning side.
Cork are represented by four players, while Limerick have three, and Antrim one, while noticeably the team features not one player from Leinster or Connacht.
The All-Stars scheme is the latest step in camogie's marked modernisation in recent years and the inaugural team announcement yesterday was also made in conjunction with the launch of the association's centenary year celebrations for the coming season, 2004.
As the scheme is sponsored by Lynch Hotels, the players are named the '2003 Lynchpins'.
The historic first selection clearly demonstrates just how much the balance of power in camogie has swung towards Munster in recent years.
No fewer than 14 of the 15 players honoured come from the southern province, with All-Ireland champions Tipperary, as expected, getting the lion's share with seven representatives.
Tipperary goalkeeper Jovita Delaney, defenders Una O'Dwyer, Ciara Gaynor and Therese Brophy were all picked, as well as team-mates Claire Grogan, Eimear McDonnell and Deirdre Hughes.
Four of the Cork side who were beaten in the All-Ireland senior final - Stephanie Dunlea, Mary O'Connor, Emer Dillon and Fiona O'Driscoll - were also honoured for their heroics during the year.
Rose Collins, Vera Sheehan and Eileen O'Brien of Limerick also were named in the team.
But perhaps most thrilled of all to be picked was Antrim midfielder Jane Adams who was her province's only representative.
"I can't believe it, I really am delighted and feel so privileged to have received such a great honour," said Adams who plays for Belfast club O'Donovan Rossa and was the 'Player of the Match' when Antrim won this year's All-Ireland Intermediate final.
A 22 year-old Leisure Event Management student at University of Ulster Jordanstown, her selection will be a huge encouragement to other Ulster players.
However, she could not afford to celebrate yesterday as she is due to line out for UUJ today against Athlone IT in the opening round of the Ashbourne Cup, the universities' camogie competition.
The All-Stars scheme will continue under the current sponsorship for the next two years at least and is just one of the many innovations which were announced to a large, star-studded crowd, including the Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism, John O'Donoghue, at Croke Park yesterday.
The 'Lynchpins' are also part of a 40-strong team of specially selected camogie 'ambassadors' who will be used to promote the game over the coming season.
A centenary logo and calendar were unveiled yesterday, to be followed by a range of commemorative merchandising, and the 100th-anniversary will also be marked by a series of major events and innovations.
This includes camogie's 'Team of the Century', to be announced at the Centenary banquet on February 28.
An Post are launching special centenary stamps in March when the GAA will also host a special camogie exhibition in the GAA Museum.
There will be a commemoration of the first ever camogie match in Navan on July 17 - Craobh A'Cheithinnigh and Cuchulainns played in that historic match in 1904.
The camogie association had been canvassing heavily behind the scenes to have their centenary All-Ireland final played as the curtain-raiser to the men's hurling final next year, but hopes of that seemed to be dashed by the announcement of September 19 as the date for next year's camogie All-Irelands.
However, the GAA has noticeably donated ?100,000 in grants, ?25,000 of it to go directly to the hosting of an international camogie tournament.
And GAA President Sean Kelly promised them every support yesterday, saying that the strengthening of the camogie association would in turn help strengthen the GAA.
"I hope every club, county board and province in the country will honour this special occasion in every way possible," he said.
Camogie president Miriam O'Callaghan said their association has "made a significant statement in its very formation and right throughout its history has impacted on the life of Irish women and Gaelic games and continues to be a ground-breaking organisation with vision and courage."