Thursday 8 December 2016

Jackman's commute epitomises dedication of female stars - Connors

Published 11/09/2015 | 02:30

Waterford's Noel Connors
Waterford's Noel Connors

Waterford corner-back Noel Connors knows lots about Trish Jackman and not just because they are both county stars who are also currently psychology PhD students at Waterford IT.

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"I know Trish really well because I grew up playing club hurling against her as a kid," he explains. "She used to play with the lads in Ballygunner up to about U-14 level and, to be honest, was sometimes the best player on the pitch.

"Since then she's had great success with the county and won five Ashbourne Cup medals with the college which, in itself, is a remarkable achievement," he notes.

Jackman, who leads Waterford against Kildare in the intermediate decider in Sunday's triple-header of Liberty Insurance All-Ireland camogie finals, is widely regarded as one of the finest female strikers of a ball.

She won a seventh Poc Fada title this summer and led the Déise to an All-Ireland premier junior title in 2011 and Connors has seen, first-hand, her dedication on and off the pitch.

Like him, she was part of a group of elite GAA players doing a special leadership course this year organised by the players' unions so they often shared lifts to Dublin together.

What makes Jackman even more exceptional is that she has been based abroad for the past year.

Her research has taken her to the University of Lincoln and now, just to get home, she has to drive for three-and-a-half hours before even boarding a plane.

"Trish travels over from England all the time for camogie, that just epitomises her and shows the sort of commitment she has," Connors stresses.

The women's Gaelic Players' Association (WGPA) has just teamed up with their male counterpart (GPA) to launch a new social media campaign - #onherside - to get inter-county male players to support their female colleagues.

Connors, like Cork's Eoin Cadogan and Wexford's Lee Chin, is among the high-profile hurlers who have put their weight behind the initiative.

"We'd see the quality of hurling among the camogie players in WIT like (Waterford's) Jenny Simpson and Vikki Falconer and Cork's Laura Treacy," he says.

"You'd see the skill they have, the work they put in and their dedication but they probably still don't get the same resources or recognition as us."

Cadogan feels the same as he watches the Rebelettes - including 14-time dual winners Briege Corkery and Rena Buckley - start their latest double bid against Galway.

"To be honest, if it was a men's team that was going for 10 All-Irelands (in football) there'd be a statue put up to them," Cadogan says. "I can't understand why there isn't!"

Connors reckons that Cork's incredible record (five senior camogie and nine football titles since 2002) has considerably helped to raise appreciation of the level of women's skill and commitment.

"Waterford's rise is very much down to their underage structures and the academy work done here. They have a very young team now. Trish would be regarded as one of the veterans compared to Beth Carton who is still in secondary school."

He says the Waterford men's board's decision to bring forward the last round of the local senior hurling championship's group stages to Saturday is a significant shift in attitude.

"Traditionally there's been lots of big men's club games clashing with the camogie finals before which didn't help. That is a really positive step and should clear the way for more male players to go and support the women." n For more on the #onherside campaign, including videos, see: www.wgpa.ie and www.gpa.ie

Irish Independent

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