Toronto Camogie Club in action at the North American Championships in Philadelphia earlier this month
The Toronto Camogie Club started out last year as a chat among a few girls who thought a ‘puck-around’ between friends would be a bit of craic. Leanne Fitzgerald, a determined woman from West Clare, saw an opportunity to bring a little piece of Eire to Toronto. The club was registered, hurleys and sliotars were purchased, a Facebook page was set up and our club was born. Due to the lack of sponsorship, a fundraiser was organised to pay for the equipment and jerseys, and we have been having a ‘puck around’ every Tuesday evening ever since.
For most of us, it is an opportunity to keep fit, meet new people and blow off some steam. There have consistently been 30 to 35 girls, of varying experience, turning up for training each week. Sixteen Irish counties are represented on our team (Kilkenny, Offaly, Dublin, Wicklow, Westmeath, Louth, Down, Cavan, Donegal, Galway, Leitrim, Kerry, Clare, Cork, Tipperary and my home county of Limerick), not to mention Canadian girls with Irish connections. Due to the brilliant attendance at training, we were able to set up our own seven-aside league where our two top teams played against each other in Centennial Park, Toronto, in the height of the summer heat.
There are a few very experienced players on our team who played camogie competitively at home, but for the majority, it was the first time we had picked up a hurley since the Cul Camps of our childhoods, or for some – ever. I come from a very GAA orientated family with a real passion for Gaelic Games. However, camogie was not a priority in our local club at home so the opportunity to play was not afforded to us. This is true for many of our girls here in Toronto.
The experienced players on the team help the beginners and it is wonderful to see the skills being taught, developed and shared. The club has inadvertently become a support system for us all. The old cliché of an ‘extended family’ comes to mind.
Our season culminated with the North American Championships in Philadelphia in early September. As a new club, we had been registered to play in the junior division but due to participation levels in the senior division, we were bumped up, but rose to the challenge. We played two matches in a round robin system against San Francisco and Boston, to reach the final. We had comprehensive victories in both games. As San Francisco had beaten Boston, they were to be our opponents. The San Fran girls were really up for the final and gave a good account of themselves. The skills of camogie – hooking, blocking, catching, striking, were exhibited beautifully. The teamwork on and off the field was immense and the sense of achievement and elation at the final whistle was overwhelming. People often speak about sporting achievements in terms of competitiveness and hard work paying off, but this far exceeded our expectations. Becoming North American Senior Camogie Champions meant more than getting some silverware. It was a win for all of our families, clubs and counties which can sometimes feel a million miles away. Not on that day though. It was a hugely proud moment for us all.
There’s no point in denying it, as beneficial and enjoyable as our time has been in Toronto, it can be tough being so far from home. To be part of something as special as this has served to highlight just how lucky we all are to be here and to share in these experiences together. It is safe to say that the Toronto Camogie Club will continue to be a feature in all of our lives.
We’ve all heard the phrase : “It was a great win for the Parish”. Well, we have created our own little parish here and we are very proud of it!
“Trína chéile a thógtar na caisleáin”.