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How Ursula Jacob Made Her Senior Inter-County Camogie Debut At 14

Pictured is Wexford Camogie legend, Ursula Jacob at the launch of Electric Ireland’s new partnership with the Camogie Association, which will see Electric Ireland become the title sponsor of the Electric Ireland Camogie All-Ireland Minor Championships. The three-year deal will extend Electric Ireland’s long-standing support of youth development in GAA to Camogie for the first time. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan
By PJ Browne Updated
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Ursula Jacob's senior inter-county camogie debut for Wexford was a "daunting experience" for a number of reasons: She was only 14, she was the goalkeeper, they were playing the reigning All-Ireland champions Tipperary, and the game was played in Thurles before Kerry and Dublin's famous 2001 All-Ireland SFC quarter-final.

"It's hard to believe really, and obviously it wouldn't be allowed these days because you have to a minimum of 16," Jacob told the Electric Ireland GAA Minor Moments podcast.

"To play senior at 14, it's quite remarkable in some ways. It's something I'm very proud of as well, the fact that I got to play at such an early age, myself and Mary Lacey, my clubmate and my county mate for all those years.

"I made my debut with the senior team in the goals. It all happened completely by accident. I broke my wrist when I was U14 and I was out for a couple of weeks. Then I was racing to get back for an U14 Leinster final, and they ended up putting me in the goal.

"I ended up playing so well in the U14 goal, that the senior manager, Dan Quigley - one of Wexford's great hurlers - asked would I come into the senior panel to play in goal.


"Lo and behold, I made my debut in the goal against Tipperary in an All-Ireland quarter-final. At that stage, Tipperary were going for the three-in-a-row. They were the big team out there. They had some of the greatest players ever on that team.

"Also, another notable thing about that game was it was played before the famous Kerry vs Dublin football match where Maurice Fitzgerald got that sideline ball over the bar.

"It's a brilliant memory to have. I'll never forget making my debut. Unfortunately, we didn't win the match but it's still a nice memory to look back on.


"The first half, there were very few people in at the game, and in the second half, the place started to fill up and get more and more crowded. Because Wexford were losing the camogie match, we were getting a bit more support.

"In the old dressing rooms in Thurles, there were four rooms. You were sharing a toilet and shower area. We were walking out, and the Dublin footballers were coming in. There were all the Dublin footballers, Jason Sherlock and all these guys. They were all so friendly and nice saying 'hard luck' to us as they were coming in.

"The crowd started to fill up and I remember standing in the goal as an innocent little 14-year-old half looking up at the crowd, thinking to myself 'Oh my God, I've never played in front of this size of a crowd.


"When I look back on it, I wasn't a bit nervous. I think I was too young. I didn't even know what nerves were. My sister was playing on the team. I had her as the security blanket in front of me.

"I had enough confidence in myself that I was well able to play in the goal. I honestly think I was too young to be nervous. I didn't get caught up in the whole thing. I just went out and enjoyed the game. Even though we lost, I still look back on it in a really positive way because it was just a brilliant thing to be able to tell people in years to come, that you made your debut at 14.

"I was a baby. I was so young, timid and small. I felt like the Tipperary forwards coming in on me were giants, and I was just tiny."


12 September 2010; Wexford players Mags D'Arcy, left, Ursula Jacob and Helena Jacob, right, celebrate with fans after the game. Gala All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship Final, Galway v Wexford, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE

For a brief while in her early teenage years, Jacob was playing on several teams at the same time.


"I was playing U14, U16 - club and county - I was playing schools camogie, I was playing senior county camogie, senior club camogie. You were probably training four, five, six times a week. If you didn't have training, you had a match," she said.

"I was just thrilled to be playing on so many teams, and no one forced me to do it. I was mad to play. Very often, you could have three or four matches in a week, and you just go on with it.

"You just didn't question it. It was better that they changed the rule. I think 14 is too young to be playing senior. I was a baby. I wasn't mature enough really to be playing senior club or county. The game has progressed so much now that there's no way a 14-year-old could go out and play senior inter-county camogie."

Jacob and the Wexford minors reached the 2000 final against Galway. The Oulart-the-Ballagh player started the game in goal.

"Thankfully, at half-time, they took me out of the goal, brought me out the field and I scored two points," she said.

"I was happier out the field that day than in the goal. I was nearly getting frustrated that we weren't getting scores on the board. Somewhere, they got the notion that 'We're going to bring Ursula out'. Josie Dwyer went back in the goal.

"I had two or three years playing with the Wexford minors. I loved every moment of it, even though we lost the final. That really made a lot of us players develop and go further with Wexford.

"There was myself, Josie Dwyer, Ciara O'Connor, Catherine O'Loughlin, Deirdre Codd - all these girls that went on to play senior inter-county with Wexford and win All-Ireland medals. That just shows the importance of playing at a high standard at minor, how that can start off your career with the adult side of things. That brought us to the next level because it gave us the feel for getting to a final."

See Also: Cork And Waterford To Clash With Major Minor Camogie History On The Line

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