17 February 2024

~7 minutes read

Galway Camogie Skipper Black Standing On The Shoulders of Giants

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Galway Camogie Skipper Black Standing On The Shoulders of Giants

By Daragh Ó Conchúir

For the past four years, Róisín Black has been a teacher at Scoil Mhuire, the same primary school she attended in her home town of Oranmore.

It might have been a tiny bit weird at first, being a colleague of some people that taught her as a child, but she loves everything about it. The profession itself, of course, but the familiarity of the surroundings and its denizens, who have been welcoming and encouraging.

They threw a party when she concluded last season with a deserved All-Star. They might have another after yesterday’s announcement that the Oranmore-Maree bulwark would be captain of the Galway camogie squad for 2024, starting off with the launch of their Very League Division 1A title defence against neighbours Clare at Cusack Park today (2pm throw-in).

She succeeds Shauna Healy and before her, Sarah Dervan, in the role and the similarities are impossible to resist.

Staunch defenders, the terror of opposition forwards, with bone-shuddering physicality and that invaluable incredible knack of winning possession in tight spaces before bursting out of the pack to clear or win a free. Think defiance, think raging against the dying of the light, an absolute resistance to bowing the knee even in defeat. The type of stuff that doesn’t get player of the year awards but inspires everyone inside the dressing room, as well as the thousands looking on from the sidelines.

Galway manager, Cathal Murray and his brains trust have chosen wisely.

Black’s progression as a player has been gradual rather than electric, having first come into the county panel in 2016 after skippering the minors to an All-Ireland final, just before sitting her Leaving Cert, but only established herself as a starter in 2022.

An All-Star nomination provided confirmation of her impact and 12 months later, she left the end-of-year function with the prized gong.

Having taken time to fully comprehend what was required in that environment, and endured the slings and arrows of elite level sport, the 25-year-old (since November) now has absolute clarity about what she must do to flourish in such a rarefied atmosphere.

Last week’s call from Murray about the captaincy came out of the blue, however.

“I was surprised as there are so many other great leaders on the team but I was delighted,” admits Black.

“It’s a great honour for myself, my family and my club. I’ve two great vice-captains as well in Carrie Dolan and Siobhán McGrath. I’ve played with them all the way up, they’re the same age as me and they’ll be able to help me out as will the other leaders around the panel.”

She has always stood out as possessing the leadership gene and apart from the minors, wore the armband for the club too. Meanwhile, you could not have had better role models than the iconic duo of Healy and Dervan.

“Shauna and Sarah have been pivotal to Galway camogie for so many years. You learn on the pitch from them and you learn off the pitch as well from them. I’ve definitely big boots to fill!”

Black has no doubts about why she was a slow burner rather than an overnight sensation. There is no finger-pointing here.

“I suppose I gave it my all for the last two years. I left no stone unturned with the gym and the training, left it all out on the field. Maybe that came with a bit of maturity. I understood what it was to be up there. You have to give 100%.

“Watching the girls too that had won All-Irelands and All-Stars, the likes of Shauna and Sarah and Niamh Kilkenny. I learned from them and understood what you had to do to get on the starting team because the competition is so fierce.

“You want to be going into an All-Ireland semi-final or final, knowing that you’ve done everything you can. It’s just always about giving it your all, in training and then on match day.”

To that end, Galway Camogie is attempting to do the same and it is appropriate that they are part of a united effort among Tribes County’s Gaelic games family to build a centre of excellence for use by the four female and male codes.

The chairpersons of camogie, ladies football and GAA boards, representing 157 club with a membership of more than 50,000, have all signed a letter sent to local TDs and the management of Galway City and County Council, requesting that a Galway airport site be developed as a centre of excellence for all, with plans including a full-size pitch within an indoor facility, two full-size floodlit 4G pitches, three or four further full-size pitches as well as dressing rooms, gym facilities and video analysis rooms.

It is an example of how integration can work and unsurprisingly, Black is enthused by the co-operative effort, as well as by the obvious improvement it is likely to bring to the preparation of county teams. And there are other more personal benefits too, should the development come to pass during her time in maroon.

“It’s something that’s so much needed. So many teams would benefit from a place like this, from underage up. It’d be great and it’s great it’s a united effort and that there is great support for it.

“Hopefully it comes in time that I get good use out of it and it won’t be too far from home, which I was delighted to hear. It’ll be about five minutes over the road across the motorway, so I’ll be blessed! It is on the outskirts of the city, which is important in terms of not dealing with city traffic. It is the ideal spot and not just for me!”

At this time of year, Murray has wisely not closed off his panel, allowing some stalwarts, in particular, time to either consider their options or indeed, a little more breathing space before returning to the helter-skelter of county fare.

The panel has been undergoing a gradual transitional phase in the last couple of years since winning the All-Ireland in 2021 however, and now seems well placed with not just the likes of Black, Dolan and McGrath etched into its fabric, but a younger generation including Áine Keane and Sabina Rabbitte having been indoctrinated in the past couple of years.

“We’ve a lot of youth in our panel this year, a lot of girls that have been in a few years now and are stepping up. We also have a lot of girls coming off winning the Purcell Cup and the Ashbourne Cup with UL. So that all helps ahead of the League campaign.

“There’s lots of girls now, including minors that have just come up, others that didn’t play last year but are making it known they want their spot in the team this year. They’re all as fit as fiddles and driving the standards for us and I’m really looking forward to getting going now.

“The new format is great too, meaning more games against all the top teams. And the same with the new format in the championship. There’ll be plenty of tough games and I’m really looking forward to it. It’ll be a tough few weeks playing match after match but I’m very much looking forward to it now after all the training. The matches are very welcome!”

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