Updated Dec 10th 2020, 12:54 PM

BY THIS TIME next year, Galway captain Sarah Dervan hopes to finally be married.

Galway captain Sarah Dervan.

Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Whether or not it will be in the company of Covid-19 is irrelevant at this stage. This is the third date that she and her partner have set for their nuptials, after the pandemic gobbled up the first two attempts this year.

They don’t want to have to wait again.

On the day she speaks to the media ahead of her side’s All-Ireland final against Kilkenny, she reveals that today was supposed to be the second date they picked for their wedding.

She’s even pushed it back to November 2021 to give her every chance of ensuring they don’t have to take the calendar back out to look for a fourth day.

Some of Dervan’s team-mates have been affected by this dilemma as well this year, so the Mullagh defender knows she’s not alone.

Sport has been a therapeutic release for everyone during the days spent cooped up in lockdown, but for Dervan, it was all the more comforting when other things weren’t falling into place for her.

“It was supposed to be on 28 March,” she says, referring to the first date for her wedding. “I’ve never been so thankful that I have something else to think about.

“I’m thrilled I have an All-Ireland to look forward to rather than thinking about this. We postponed the new date back in August, just because of all the uncertainty.

I just got so sick of watching the news, seeing the numbers and them only going the wrong way. The pressure of trying decide what to do, will you have your suppliers and all that again? Making the decision was probably one of the hardest things to do, but there was nothing but relief once it was made, it was great to have it off your shoulders.

“I just threw myself in to camogie and I’m delighted to be able to have it to keep me going.

“There are plenty of players who are just like me, I’m no different to anyone else who had to do it. You just get on with things, that’s life, you can’t change it. I’ll look forward to it again when it comes around.”

It’s been an unusually long year for Galway. After ending 2019 as All-Ireland champions, they’ve had to wait until October to get their title defence on the road. 15 months on from their six-point win over Kilkenny in last year’s decider, the two prepare to meet again in the All-Ireland showpiece on Saturday night in Croke Park.

Dervan and the rest of the Galway team after winning last year’s Al-Ireland final.

Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Collective training was prohibited during much of the lockdown period, meaning Dervan had to train alone in the confines of her garden. Zoom offered a replacement for the face-to-face interactions, but Dervan missed being around her team-mates.

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During that time, she was also working from home although she has since returned to the offices of Medtronic in Ballybrit where she works as a team leader.

She clung to the hope that competitive matches would get the green light at some stage, and would politely switch off when anyone suggested otherwise.

“It was actually very lonely,” she says. “The hardest part was pucking around on your own. You can do the sessions yourself, running around, working with equipment, you power through them, but pucking around on your own or off a wall just isn’t the same as going down to the pitch, meeting the girls, chatting with them, having a bit of craic.

“When you’re in a routine like that, when you get up every morning, go to work, come home, go training, that’s your life, that’s what you do. So for everything to be taken away, I struggled for the first few weeks to figure out what I was supposed to be doing.

“We just kept each other going and prayed for the day that we’d get the go-ahead to get back training and playing. Thankfully we did.

“Lots of people told me I was mad, but I just took it that camogie would be back, anyone who told me differently, I just stayed away from them,” she laughs.

This will be a unique All-Ireland final under the lights of Croke Park with no spectators looking on, or an intermediate decider to precede it.

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Galway had representation in both All-Ireland finals last year, but their intermediates were forced to withdraw from that competition in 2020 due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Dervan says “it was hard” for her not to be able to see her extended team-mates from the intermediate squad at training. They would normally have up to 50 girls on the pitch at those sessions, but that number has been cut down to 26 with just the seniors able to attend.

Up until recently, only the players on the match-day squad were permitted entry to grounds for their side’s championship games. The Government have since changed that rule to allow all panel members attend the remaining fixtures.

Family members of players however, are still instructed to watch the games at home.

“We had to leave players at home for previous games,” says Dervan, “it was hard for them. But in fairness they showed up the next Tuesdays for training and just drove on as normal.

“So it’s welcomed that they can come to the final, they do the exact same training. It could be any of us who are 26 down.

Dervan clearing the lines for Galway against Tipperary.

Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“It’d be fantastic to have family in there, my mother would be at the gate looking in! But the most important thing is that all the players on the panel are allowed in, my Mum will just have to stay at home and be a nervous wreck.

Your family are your heart and your soul, at the end of the day, they hit every ball with you. I don’t think my Mum managed to watch much of the semi-final, until it was over and she knew the result then she could sit back and watch it in comfort.

“It’s hard on them not to be there, but I think they’re just so delighted that we’re getting this chance, they’re willing us on with every bone in their body.”

The burden of being the hunted rather than the hunter seems to rest easily on Dervan’s shoulders. 

Mentions of her Player of the Match award in the semi-final win over Tipperary are met with a smile and a modest reply.

“I don’t even know who picks that, I wouldn’t have picked me any way.” 

Victory over Kilkenny on Saturday would mean she will be the first camogie captain to lift All-Ireland titles since 1966. But again, she’s not giving that a thought. Dervan didn’t even know that accolade was within her grasp.

Only Kilkenny, and their hunger for a first All-Ireland title since 2016, is on Dervan’s radar.

“They’re a brilliant team, this is their fifth final in a row, that’s massive for a team to be able to be consistently competing in the All Ireland final. I suppose we can’t really focus too much on them, we can only focus on ourselves and what we can bring to the match.

“They have some unbelievable players, absolutely, but you can’t be worrying about what they’re going to bring, you just worry about yourself. Get yourself in the best possible mind-frame when the ball is in.”

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