Roger that: Bríd Rogers is the new ace in the Derry pack

By Daragh Ó Conchúir

 CHAMPIONSHIP day can be a tricky one in any household, given the various mental and physical routines and preparation, the planning and the anticipation, the frayed nerves.

Imagine then, what it has been like in the Rogers and Donnelly residences this week and this morning, where wives and husbands each have massive games to play in the coming hours.

Bríd Rogers (née McGourty) and Megan Donnelly (née Kerr) are part of the Derry team making the long trip to Páirc Lachtain in Freshford to take on unbeaten Kilkenny in a vital Glen Dimplex All-Ireland senior camogie championship Group 1 tie (1.30pm).

Unlike their last outing, when they secured senior status with a victory over Limerick at Owenbeg, the hubbies won’t be in the stands to support them.

Rogers’ other half since the end of last year, Brendan, is a current football All-Star and part of the Oak Leaf squad that won the League earlier this year. They face Mayo in a tumultuous knockout clash in Castlebar this evening.

Meanwhile, Donnelly got married in April to Tyrone footballer Mattie, a dual All-Star and former All-Ireland winner with the Red Hands, who cross swords with Roscommon in Omagh. They have a young son into the bargain.

Rogers says she has learned much from Brendan but laughs at how different they are too.

“I would ask Brendan how he’s feeling but he doesn’t give too much away,” says Rogers, during a sandwich break where she works as a nurse in the Cardiac Hub at Altnagelvin Hospital.

“I enjoy talking about my matches but whenever he’s playing, it’s a different story. I would talk to him more about how I’m feeling rather than him talking to me. As I said, he doesn’t give too much away.

“He’s helped me in lots of aspects of playing. He would have played full-forward and half-forward himself hurling for Sleacht Néill so he tells me a few wee things to be doing to better myself.

“He’s very much into keeping the body right, rehab and things like that. I try and follow what he’s doing. It’s good that way.”

She will hope online connectivity holds up on the journey home as she tries to keep tabs on Brendan’s clash. She will hope too, that the mood in the bus is celebratory but already, the decision to end a decade’s absence form the inter-county scene has paid off.

The 29-year-old has been a regular scoring contributor as Derry have cemented senior status with two rounds still remaining, having only made the step up to the top flight last year as intermediate champions.

She wasn’t involved then. Indeed prior to this year, she was a teenager when last playing county camogie, for her native Down. The Ballycran product won an All-Ireland premier junior title alongside her legendary sister Catherine in her final game in the red and black, in 2014. And then life took hold.

“For a few years, with study and things like that, I put camogie on the back burner. Now that I’m settled with the job and I’m able to get to training more often, I thought I may as well go back and play county this year.

“I was still playing away with club but after moving to Sleacht Néill two years ago – last year was my first year playing camogie with Sleacht Néill – but when I had the time, I thought I’d give it a go.

“It’s good to be back playing and when you’re playing against the better teams, you’re bettering yourself. I didn’t want to leave it longer. I thought it was time to get back and after Derry won the intermediate last year, it was a good chance to go back and test yourself at senior level against all those great players.”

How Sleacht Néill and Derry are glad she ran into Brendan and wound up in their neck of the woods. The athletic sharpshooter scored a goal and three points in the final as the Emmet’s won the county championship last year. When their provincial campaign ended at the semi-final stage, PJ O’Mullan was quick to get in touch.

“I’m enjoying it. I knew some of the Sleacht Néill players obviously but I’m making good connections now with the rest of the panel. We planned to win the League (Division 2A) and get to Division 1B and potentially Ulster. They didn’t go our way but we regrouped, a few changes were made on the pitch and it seemed to better us.

“We beat Antrim in the first round. Tipperary was a hard enough match but I felt our workrate was really good. They’re a very experienced team. Then we beat Limerick so we’re doing well and hopefully the next two weeks we can get a result as well.”

With the primary Championship target achieved, Derry are in bonus territory but while the prospect of securing a quarter-final berth might be viewed externally as unlikely, they are in bring-it-on-mode. At present, they sit in third, ahead of last year’s All-Ireland finalists Waterford, who they face next weekend.

“We all had a feeling we could do it against Antrim and once we beat them, we were targeting Limerick to try stay senior but now we’ve done that, we’re looking at the next step to try and get to an All-Ireland quarter-final, which would be huge.

“We just want to go out and play how we’ve been playing the whole Championship. I know the result against Tipperary doesn’t look great but our workrate was really good and it’s about bringing that out the next two days.”

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