Friday 24 November 2017

Even big family weddings can't distract Jacqui

Kilkenny’s Jacqui Frisby is tackled by Galway’s Ailish O’Reilly. Photo: Ken Sutton/INPHO
Kilkenny’s Jacqui Frisby is tackled by Galway’s Ailish O’Reilly. Photo: Ken Sutton/INPHO

Daragh ó Conchúir

It isn't that Jacqui Frisby missed her brother's wedding to play for Kilkenny. Well, that is indicative enough of the type of dedication the 31-year-old has given to the cause since being introduced to the senior panel in 2001, I suppose.

Really though, it is the matter-of-fact delivery of the line providing the information. Not completely glossing over it, in fairness, but just a 'one-of-those-things-you-have-to-do' type of statements.

It comes up after a query about what keeps her going through a hitherto vain attempt to scale Camogie's peak, an involvement in four losing All-Ireland Senior Finals and the price paid in terms of a social life. Who knew how much donning the black and amber livery actually meant?

"It's the love of the game and to try win an All-Ireland," Frisby begins. "That's everyone's dream and it hasn't been won in a long time. I enjoy it. You'd miss it if you didn't do it."

And that's fair enough. She continues.

"Some of my friends would have done a J1 and would have went abroad. I've never been on a sun holiday, but I get away around October and over Christmas."

Then that line, tagged on at the end, without any pause for dramatic effect. It almost escapes the inquisitor.

"I missed my brother's wedding as well, actually. I don't think he'll ever forgive me for that!"

Whoah ... What?

"It was the church is all, it wasn't too bad. He always brings it up and laughs at it."

The church is all?

Please explain.

"We were playing Tipperary that day - in the Championship on a Saturday. I missed the church but I got back for five or six o'clock, so it wasn't too bad. That's just the way it happens, you know?"

Why is she still playing? What a stupid question.

Frisby isn't just hanging in there either -she remains as sharp, agile and quick-thinking as ever, a proactive corner-back who has evolved from her early days as a goalkeeper. She progressed from there initially to the forwards, but has been corner-back for the best part of a decade.

In that time, she has shadowed some of the greats.

"Kate Kelly is probably the toughest," she says. "She's physically tough. She has it in the air, the skill, and fitness too. A great workrate. Ursula Jacob would have been very hard as well. She was strong and such a brilliant finisher off either side.

"Every game and every player is different. I don't really look too much at it. Obviously, you'd look at the opposition and the player you're marking and have an idea in your head of what you might try to do, but for me, it's basically try to get to the ball first. That's always how I've approached it."

And that is how she intends to approach Cork, no matter who is in her space at any given time, as the Leesiders rotate in a bid to find space for Katrina Mackey and company to utilise.

She respects the champions, insisting that they are favourites given that they have won the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Championship for the last two seasons.

Yet there is a confidence that Kilkenny have improved - although why they are 22 years without adding to their tally of 12 All-Irelands is a puzzle.

"Obviously, there are good teams there," she says. "Cork are a great team. Galway beat us one year, Cork beat us twice. You never know what will happen on the day, how it will turn out. Maybe we can get over the line this year, but Cork are going for the three-in-a-row; they're used to winning, so it'll be tough.

"We've gotten to finals and semi-finals without really being tested and then been beaten in the first test. This year we've been tested more in the National League and Championship and hopefully we've improved. Changes have been made that will hopefully work out."

And Frisby will have done all she can to make it so.

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