'I've never stopped wanting it, I will keep going until I get it'
Dreams of another All-Ireland medal still drive Galway's Veronica Curtin, says Marie Crowe
I f you win your first All-Ireland at 16 years of age, you would be forgiven for thinking that the good times would just keep on coming. But today, 14 years after Galway's Veronica Curtin captured her first title, she is back in Croke Park still looking for a second one.
"The drive to want to win one again is still there, I'm playing for a long time and I have never stopped wanting it," says Curtin. "When you are born into it and you have made it your life, it becomes such a priority. Winning becomes your main focus, I have given all this time and given all this commitment, it's in my blood and I want to win it so bad. I will keep going until I get it."
Curtin's senior debut came in 1995 when she was 15, an All-Ireland semi-final against Kilkenny. Since then she has dedicated half her life to inter-county camogie. That's 15 years of hard winter training, summers without holidays and, for the most part, disappointments.
"I'm completely conditioned to it now. I don't know any different. During my college years, I would have felt a bit aggrieved or a bit hard done by when I saw my friends heading off to America for summers but to be honest I love competing at the top. When I am at the top it doesn't bother me; it doesn't bother me because we've been winning and achieving success. I suppose that's what is important to me."
Obviously, 15 seems very young to break onto the county panel but Curtin believes that if you are good enough, you are old enough. It worked for her, although she does acknowledge that you can start young in camogie -- it's very different from hurling in that respect, not as physical. She has also been fortunate not to suffer any serious injuries along the way.
In many ways, her career has flown by. Surprisingly, she remembers her first All-Ireland well. In fact, it wasn't just her first one -- it was Galway's first too. The cup had never crossed the Shannon before, and the whole province shared their success.
"That occasion was amazing but looking back I think we took it for granted," says Curtin. "All-Irelands are hard to win and it takes huge commitment and huge dedication, I think we thought that it was going to happen the whole time. Then we hit the bad times, we found it hard to adapt to 15-a-side and we were losing semi-finals continuously for a few years.
"I kept wondering if it was ever going to happen for us. Then we made the breakthrough in 2008 and it was fantastic and although we didn't win that bit of success brought us back again. You never get over the disappointments suffered but you live with it and keep going."
Stretching out her career has been hard work, but down through the years Curtin has looked after herself well, paying careful attention to her diet, training and recovery. "I'm good to myself," she insists, "I never abuse my body."
During the off-season, Curtin plays hockey. Indeed, she is intent on maintaining a constant level of fitness all year round.
Back in 1995, the two-time All-Star started out as a full-forward but has moved round the field over the years. At the start of the current season, she found herself back where she started, lining out at full-forward once again.
"It's a place where you have to have patience and wait for the ball. I like it but I like wing-forward too. I want to be where there is ball. It took me a while to get used to full-forward, standing up for a while and no ball coming in. But then it just started happening for me, my performances started coming together and I'm getting the scores as well so I've been left there."
Along with getting the scores Curtin has been using her experience to help the younger players before the big day. After 15 years at the top, she has plenty of it behind her, and is no stranger to the big occasions.
"I've been around for so long now I don't get nervous anymore. I try and help the other girls. I tell them to always try their best every day and learn from every game that they play. Things won't always work out but I believe if you learn something from every day, it will happen for you."
Nor is there any escaping the sport. Her husband Damian Coleman, a selector on the Galway team, has been involved in GAA for years, training the Ashbourne Cup team in NUI Galway and playing inter-county hurling with Galway.
"Damian understands the commitment that is required, it's never a problem if we have to cancel a holiday or if we can't do something because I have a match, he doesn't mind at all. He is used to it and he knows what is involved; he makes it easy for me."
Today is one of the biggest of her career. She knows she can't compete at the top level forever and so is acutely aware of the importance of this opportunity.
Although Galway have beaten today's opponents Wexford twice this year, both occasions yielded only narrow victories.
Wexford last won the All-Ireland in 2007 and their core experienced players remain intact. But Galway aren't lacking anything either. They contested the final in 2008 and have been building towards a reappearance ever since. Overcoming Cork in the semi-final replay gave them confidence, winning the intermediate last year gave their new players experience and with Veronica Curtin leading from the front, they finally have all the pieces needed to put the jigsaw together.
Galway: S Earner; S Tannian, S Dervan, N Kilkenny; R Glynn, A-M Hayes, T Manton; Emma Kilkelly, O Kilkenny; C Murray, T Maher (c), B Hanney; T Rutledge, V Curtin, A Connolly
Wexford: M D'Arcy; C O'Connor, C O'Loughlin, K Atkinson; N Lambert, M Leacy, A O'Connor; C Murphy, D Codd; K Kelly, U Leacy (c), M O'Leary; K Parrock, U Jacob, J Dwyer
Galway v Wexford,
Live RTE2, 4.0