‘There’s girls on our team who weren’t born when I started out’ – Back-to-back All-Ireland tilt at 36

A WEDDING, AN All-Ireland club camogie final and another championship campaign that has reached the semi-final stage.

Oulart-The-Ballagh’s Ursula Jacob.

Source: Sportsfile

Ursula Jacob has had a busy time on and off the pitch over the past two months. With her club Oulart-The-Ballagh, she played her part in helping to capture the 2020 All-Ireland senior championship after dethroning Galway’s Sarsfields in a final which was delayed until last December.

The long pause to complete the competition was due to a combination of Covid-19 and a well-documented battle with the Camogie Association which almost resulted in the All-Ireland series being scrapped.

Consequently, the conclusion of the 2020 championship has spilled into the 2021 provincial and All-Ireland series which got underway at the start of this year.

That didn’t leave much time for Oulart to toast their success before rebooting for a Leinster final clash against Dicksboro at the end of January.

The quick turnaround was all the more challenging for Jacob, who had a wedding day to fit into that block of time as well.

“You could say that alright, it’s been a hectic few months between everything,” she reflects as Oulart face into an All-Ireland semi-final against Clare’s Scariff Ogonolloe on Sunday afternoon.

“But at the same time, it’s been a brilliant few months. It’s been very difficult for everyone over the past couple of years but the camogie has been a brilliant distraction from all things Covid-related.

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“Then obviously from a personal point of view, I only got married in December just after we won the All-Ireland. So, it’s been a manic few months but I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. Thankfully, both the wedding and the All-Ireland went well so I’m now a happily married woman and looking forward to the game on Sunday.

“It was great in one way because those games were one week after the other. 

“St Judes, Thomastown [Leinster final], Slaughtneil and then Sarsfields. When you win that All-Ireland, you know you’re after coming through the toughest route possible. And to top it off then, between myself and Stacey, we both had our weddings to look forward to. I’m just grateful that mine wasn’t the day before the final.”

At 36, Jacob has already achieved so much in her career. She was a key forward on the famous Wexford side who won four out of six All-Irelands from 2007 to 2012, including a three-in-row. 

Her Oulart team-mates Karen Atkinson and the Leacy sisters, Mary and Úna were also central to that effort, with Jacob eventually retiring from the inter-county scene in 2016.

The club game has been similarly profitable for this special group who have played together from a young age, winning All-Ireland crowns in 2011, 2014 and 2020.

And even after all they have won in Wexford and Oulart colours, there’s still a hunger to hunt down the treasures on offer in the 2021 championship. 

The club has certainly benefited from their collective experience, but the longevity of their careers has attracted some negative remarks too. Speaking to the Irish Examiner after their Leinster final win over Dicksboro, Úna Leacy said that some of the pre-match commentary insulted their side by labelling them an “ageing team.”

“Look,” says Jacob when asked for her views, “you’re always going to have comments like that when you’ve girls still playing well into their 30s but to be honest, I don’t pay too much heed to that kind of outside distraction.

“We know our potential and talent ourselves. I’m playing senior club for 22 years. There’s some girls on our team who are only 22 years of age so they weren’t even born when I started out. When you cross the white line, and it’ll be the same on Sunday, Scariff won’t care what age I am or Úna Leacy or whoever.

“I think there’s too much made sometimes of someone’s age. You still are talented enough, fit enough and you’re able to go out on the field of play.”

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As Oulart aim to keep their All-Ireland title defence on track this weekend, Jacob adds:

Oulart players celebrate their All-Ireland victory in December.

Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“We’re a very close knit bunch of girls, we’re all from Oulart-The-Ballagh. From Primary School right up, we’ve all been playing and in each other’s pockets and I think that stands in a club team.

“I suppose I definitely would agree that at this stage of my career, and the likes of Mary Leacy and that, we’ve been playing with Oulart senior teams since we were 14. We’re enjoying it just as much and it probably means even more because each game you now get to play, that’s a bonus.

“We probably would have been disappointed over the last couple of years that we were reaching the county final but didn’t get through. Something maybe changed in the attitude in the last couple of years.

“And we just really worked hard and throughout those lockdowns, the individual responsibility is probably what stood out for me.”

Ursula Jacob pictured ahead of one of #TheToughest showdowns of the year, as reigning champions, Oulart, face and Scariff Ogonnelloe in the AIB Senior Camogie Club All-Ireland Championship semi-final this Sunday, 20 February at 1:30pm at Clonmel Commercials GAA (Tipperary).

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