Ready to take on the chaos

One of Camogie’s all-time greats, Ursula Jacob is a four-time All-Ireland champion with Wexford and is aiming for a fourth AIB All-Ireland Senior Club title with Oulart-The Ballagh at Croke Park today.

Her knowledge and experience, coupled with the ability to articulate, have made her a linchpin of RTÉ’s team of Gaelic games experts.

She knows what it means to compete in the white heat of battle. Her playing career begins after growing up on the genderless slingshot, being the daughter of the great Mick Jacob of Wexford and sister to Helena, Rory and Michael, all Wexford players.

“I’m so used to talking about GAA, whether it’s camogie or hurling, when I was home it was all one,” she says. “My mom and dad talked to me and my sister the same way they talked to my two brothers about hurling or camogie. It’s never really been seen much differently. When I was asked by RTÉ to join the Camogie panel for the first time after my retirement, I jumped at the chance. Then the opportunity arose to work on the skid side of things.

“In the beginning you’re kind of like, ‘Oh my God, I was watching The Sunday game my whole life and I’m sitting next to Anthony Daly or Donal Óg Cusack or Jackie Tyrrell now and they’re players I’ve admired and respected. And I assume that at times you have felt intimidated when you have walked into an environment. As soon as you enter the room and start chatting with them, you forget you’re on TV with these heroes. You’re just chatting to someone at your local parking lot or on the street or whatever. They all hug me very much, they respect my opinion.

“I’m here to do a job. I think Donal Óg Cusack can talk about camogie as much as I can about slingshots. I think we need to get over that kind of gender thing. Of course there will always be people who aren’t happy about it, but as long as I feel like I’m doing a good job, I’ll just keep going.”

A thick skin is necessary. This also goes for a fairly balanced approach to highs and lows. Oh, and being able to juggle a variety of balls. She has combined gaming and expertise with her job as a staff officer at Tusla – and recently married.

“Each week I’m just running left, right, center… I’m thankful that I’m pretty good at overall multitasking and managing a workload.

“The last five, six months have was just manic, but it was also really positive and entertaining. I’ve probably never enjoyed my camogie as much as I have in the last few years and that’s probably an odd thing considering it’s been so disruptive in some ways for a few years but I don’t know, I think Playing Camogie gave us all, including myself, a distraction.

“I don’t think we have to dwell on age and all that, but I think the older you get the more you have only one guarantee: that you play a final on Sunday. You can’t look past it because who knows what’s going to happen or who knows what’s coming next? So, you’re embracing and kind of fully enjoying this right now.”

Jacob goes into tonight’s final against Galway’s Sarsfields with a name for delivering when it counts. In the 2011 All-Ireland final, when she was captain, Jacob shot 1-2 in the last 10 minutes to secure Wexford victory as they tapped Galway. The goal was sensational, an air catch, a few steps to make room and a shot in the net.

Who will ever forget co-commentator Cyril Farrell’s reaction 12 months later after her incredible goal eight minutes from the end of regular time that cemented the back-to-back hat-trick? “It’s unreal,” the Galway man roared.

Jacob followed with two quick points – one from just off the touchline – and suddenly a two-point game was dead and buried. She finished the day as the player of the game with 2-7 of the Yellowbellies’ 3-13.

“I’ve become a bit more thoughtful when it comes to finals like this. Even more so now that I’ve retired from Wexford. At the time you don’t really think too much, you’re just so happy and over the moon that you’ve won, but over the past few years, during lockdowns, I’ve watched some of the All-Ireland finals with my dad and mum .

“I look back on my time and them Loved experiences at Croke Park because we had a special group of girls. And I was lucky enough to achieve it with the club too. Some of my best friends are from Camogie, and I kind of hooked up with people like Mary and Úna (Leacy), Karen Atkinson and Ciara Storey, and Shelly and Stacey Kehoe, and you guys are just in each other’s pockets.”

Jacob knows that stepping into Croke Park for the club again with an All-Ireland on the line is more than she could ever have dreamed of.

“It’s been 10 years since we were in our first final where we played Drom & Inch. If someone had told me in 2012 that we were in a final again and that the core of the team is still there ten years later, I would have said there’s no way I’m still going to be there at 36 years old at Croke Park.

“It’s fantastic. And it’s thanks to a lot of us that they stuck with it because for some it would have been easier to pull out.

“We had won a lot and achieved a lot, but I suppose you also have that stubbornness in you that you have to prove.”

The knowledge is comforting. reassuring. She does not fear the tumult and chaos that lies ahead. The big ones never do that.

“We’re all looking forward to it. You must enjoy it. nerves are good They show you care, but it’s just a matter of making sure they don’t overwhelm you.” Ready to take on the chaos

Fry Electronics Team

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