Ali Twomey in Castleknock to help launch the new virtual AIG Health Plus portal which offers free membership at www.aig.ie/dubgym. Picture: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
AFTER a tumultuous 2020, marked by two changes of management, Dublin camogie star Ali Twomey is hopeful 2021 brings more stability as the sky blues adjust to life under new boss Adrian O’Sullivan.
The Dubs bowed out of the group stages of the senior championship before Christmas with back-to-back losses to Clare and Tipperary with training proving a stop-start endeavour.
“It was very stressful,” the Lucan Sarsfields’ woman said at the AIG Dub Club Health initiative launch on Wednesday.
“We had spent the whole of lockdown working to get back to championship and then three weeks before it, you get a new management, it is tough. The lads that came in did a good job, the best they could in the time they had.
“As a team, it brought us closer together because there was a period where we had to train ourselves while things went on in the background. We didn’t want to stop training. It wasn’t ideal but it will stand to us.
“But when you are not training at the highest standard, you can’t play games at the highest standard. You train how you want to play. We were playing catch-up.
“Against Tipp, maybe we surprised ourselves and probably others in how well we played, coming within five points. It was a huge boost but, against Clare, we were completely flat and they were much more prepared. You could tell they were training consistently for the short season while we just had three weeks. It was really obvious.”
As such, Twomey is delighted to have O’Sullivan – a two-time Ashbourne Cup winner with UL amid an impressive CV – in place and working with St Jude’s supremo Donie Fox following his exploits on the local club scene.
“It’s something we have brought up as a team. We need a set management to develop and grow. Last time we had management for more than two years, we got to an All-Ireland semi-final. It shows there is potential there when we have a structure.
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“It is really hard when you are chopping and changing. Not only is the management changing but the players are too. The gameplans, everything changes with it. Game plans take months to implement and get right. It’s like starting from scratch each time so we are hoping this team will be here for the next three years.
“It has been hard. There is a core group on the team for the past three or four years. After that, everything outside has changed with different managers seeing different things in different girls. It’s been hard to bond.
“So far, Donie and Adrian have been really good in terms of giving us a structure; we have set sessions each day and team meetings. While we are not going training [together] but we do have a good structure since Christmas when it was it put in place and you do feel like you have a lot more purpose.
“I do genuinely believe there is enough talent in Dublin camogie to break into that top four and even to win the All-Ireland. Its about getting everything playing at the one time with the management that can give us the tools to improve which everyone buys into.”
Away from the playing field, Twomey is also hopeful 2021 is the year meaningful change comes to pass when it comes to the inequality experienced by Dublin camogie players compared to their football and hurling counterparts.
She is hopeful the merger of the GPA and WGPA will play a part in this but does add that playing intercounty is now a “very expensive hobby”.
“I can’t say [my current experience] has been great to be honest,” she said. “We still don’t get any expenses for training. We don’t always get food after training. We got gear last year but we didn’t the year before. In terms of what you see the lads get and what we do, there is still a huge difference.
“Girls are starting to put their foot down in terms of expenses. I pay €90-100 on tolls just to get training each month, that’s without petrol or buying your food for meal prep. It is a very expensive hobby and, when you compare it to the lads, it is very disheartening. There’s a lot that needs to be done to level things.”
It is now her 11th season with Dublin and the ongoing issues do take their toll on the players with the love of the sport what brings her back.
“As time goes on, it is tough to stay motivated. You do have times when you think ‘I can’t go back’, it’s too much commitment. At the end of the day, you just love the sport and want to play.
“That’s what always brings me back. I love playing and it is all I want to do. It is hard to keep upbeat about the situation when you do see what the lads get compared to us but it is out of our hands. Higher up, something needs to be done.”
PHOTO CREDIT – File – Dubin camogie player Ali Twomey during the AIG Dub Club Health Club event at Porterstown Park in Catleknock, Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile