Underage value is no minor matter…

Jane Adams will always have the legacy of her starring roles on the camogie fields of Ireland. Michael McMullan chatted to her about the health of the game in Ulster and where gains can be made

JANE Adams’ facial expression says it all. Her smile is beaming from ear to ear.

With the very mention of a recent Gaelic Life Throwback Thursday photo, the magical 2008 memories come flooding back when Rossa were top of the pile.

When the snap buzzed around social media, it was Adams’ birthday. An unplanned present.

Back at the heel of 2008, it was a week to remember. If being the first Antrim player to pick up an All-Star wasn’t enough, the artist’s exploits for Rossa was another magic moment. Of the 2-15 Rossa hit Drom & Inch for on that November Sunday, Adams hit 2-9. Yes 2-9.

“It was a nice wee reminder,” she said in the preamble of a dive into Ulster camogie.

“That day was obviously the most special day in our club’s history and so it was absolutely brilliant.”

When you win All-Irelands with club and county, lead defenders a merry dance at Croke Park and are recognised by the All-Star selectors, you are well placed to talk about camogie and what it offers.

Eight years since putting her wand to one side, there is a passion for camogie. There is no serious coaching involvement but when the phone rings with an invitation to a school prize-giving day, the answer is always ‘yes.’

Just last Tuesday, she was in Finaghy at St John the Baptist Primary School as part of a panel of guests from all four codes. It was a GAA day to unveil all the various school captains for next year.

“To be involved in something like that it’s extra special for me,” Adams said.

“Back in my day playing at school, just turned nine or ten, to be able to have your peers watch you get elected as captain would have been absolutely brilliant so anything that I’m asked to do I’ll definitely do it.”

There was also a visit to Dungiven for a 75th anniversary.

“I do miss being fully immersed in it but I do have the opportunity to nip in and nip out,” she said.

Adams called time on her Antrim career in 2014. The body and age profile would’ve allowed a few more years but her mind was set.

“I just thought that I’ve had such a love affair with the sport,” she explains.

“It was coming to a time that there was new blood coming into the county and I’d done it all before. I think I was nearly playing at that stage 20 years, so I just thought it was time to move on for me.

“I could have still played on because it was only 32 at the time but it just didn’t want to have that factor of ‘I don’t love this anymore’ so I thought that it was time to move on at that stage.”

There were still two more years on the scene with her beloved Rossa before it was time to step aside completely.

The club celebrated their centenary in 2016. There was a new jersey commissioned to mark the season and the desire to pull it over her shoulders enticed Adams to give camogie one more year.

“I went back and we got beat by Loughgiel,” she said. “I had broken my wrist and cut the plaster of Paris off three or four days before it so I was able to play. I knew that day was the very, very last day that I would be playing.”

She misses the friends. Retirement is final and the jersey is passed on to someone else.

That unique and special banter at training is no longer food for the soul.

“I was playing the sport that I absolutely loved so I really, really miss that but, really and truly, it’s the team and camaraderie that you get from it.

“I played along with my sisters,” Adams added. “I might not have seen them at the house so I’ve seen them on the field.

“Like probably anybody that talks about playing in GAA circles, it is the family that you have extra to the family that you have at home so that’s what I miss most.”

From a team player on the pitch, it was the same in business with Manny’s Fish and Chip shops and their most recent venture Pizza Guyz that blossomed during Covid.


Adams is now peeking over the hedge at the camogie landscape and likes what she sees.

Derry, Antrim and Down are at the top end. Armagh and Tyrone have won recent league silverware.

When in the crux of it, she felt there was talent across Ulster. She references playing against Keady with Rossa. They had great players, and still have.

“Antrim at the minute, I know they got beaten in the semi-final by Dublin a couple of weeks ago but I know Dublin went on to win the Division 1B final. So, the calibre of player that Antrim have is top notch.”

There is the understanding of Down losing Niamh Mallon after work took her to Galway.

“She’s absolutely such a skilful player,” Adams said. “There’s many more skilfull players within Down and I feel that they’re capable of pushing into the All-Ireland series.”

Speaking to promote the Electric Ireland Minor Championships, Adams feels it’s a grade where gains can be made. She refers to the marketing line ‘this is major’ being relevant. That’s because it is.

“I feel we in Ulster might have a drop-off point,” she said of the underage window.

It gives young players an avenue to show their talents. Some many still not opt to push on to senior level, but without meaningful underage it’s much harder.

“It (minor championships) gives them something to look forward to and make them want to stay in the game,” said Adams with a genuine belief in its importance.

She refers to the u-14 Féile grade as the “light switch moment” when sport became a real focus.

“What I would do is I would probably run more All-Ireland campaigns,” she stressed.

“I feel that a lot of kids are getting to the stage where maybe they’re 18, 19, and they’ve never played in an All-Ireland or they’ve never played somebody from the south.

“That, for them, makes them feel that they’re inadequate.”

Adams highlights the “massive” drop off rate from u-14 to minor. Now the increased range of minor camogie competition offers something on the other side.

“There’s a massive gap in between,” she continues. “Kids are still going out at u-15 and u-16, doing the hard training, doing everything that comes with playing camogie but there’s nothing really there to showcase.

“Whenever people do things, they like something at the end of it. They like to maybe get to a final. How wonderful would it be if we were able to do something like the Féile for that age group in between?” she suggests.

“We do know that, especially in females, the drop-off point for girls is whenever they get into the u-16.”

There are other distractions. What’s the solution?

More games at u-16 level and at a national level. Ulster teams both travelling the country and hosting teams who make the trip north. And it’s all about camogie.

The All-Ireland competition focus is one thing. Media coverage is another. Adams refers to the ‘can’t see her, can’t be her’ motto where players in the spotlight inspire others to follow.

“I love that there is more media presence now, but it can grow even bigger and better,” she suggests.


The long-term future of camogie will fall under a new-look integrated model with the LGFA and the mainstream GAA.

It’s something Adams has always wanted without really seeing it as a possibility. Now the wheels are turning but there will be obstacles.

“I know that in anything, like any big mergers, there’s always going to be difficulties around it,” Adams suggests. “I think the three main ones for the Camogie Association and the GAA are the finances, the facilities and the fixtures. So there is a lot of adapting to be done.”

It’s something Adams feels can be overcome and she is excited by a “better balanced” association on the other side.

She agrees with the words of GAA President Jarlath Burns on a recent podcast about it being a journey worth taking.

“I feel especially for young ladies and young women and women in sport, that the merger can only do better things because we have more access to everything,” Adams said.

“We’ll have more access to finances, we’ll have more access to the facilities and also we’ll have more access to the fixtures and also being able to play on your own pitch.

“I do see that it is going to be very integral. I do see that there could be problems on the horizon but again, like Jarlath said, I think it’s a journey worth taking.”

Everyone will benefit and, as someone who is a decade away from a playing career, Adams has the value of hindsight to rubberstamp what sporting involvement offers off the pitch.

“For me, the most important thing was the friendships that I’ve made,” she said in conclusion.

“The characteristics and the armour it gave me leading into my business life.

“It has all benefitted massively from playing sport. Being motivated, disciplined, taking the hurts whenever you have to.

“Sometimes that’s not just getting hurt on the field, it’s getting hurt emotionally when you’re not winning.

“It’s all about how and when you’re able to bounce back and become probably a better person.

“I do believe that sport for all genders, all ages. It opens doors and gives you opportunities that you may not have without it.”

Jane Adams was speaking as part of the Electric Ireland sponsorship of the Camogie All-Ireland Minor Championship

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