Success stories, life lessons, turbulent times and silver linings: Wexford’s dual diamond

September 19, 2021 0 By HearthstoneYarns

AT ONE STAGE earlier this year, Wexford dual star Chloe Foxe was lining out for six different teams; playing both camogie and football for club, county and for college.

Wexford camogie star Chloe Foxe.

Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Often under the spotlight for fixture clashes and other negative circumstances beyond their control, the insane talent and ridiculous levels of commitment shown by dual players often goes uncredited. Plain and simple, they love doing what they do and playing two sports at the highest level.

And Foxe is absolutely no different.

It can be done, and she’s a shining example of how to master it.

Dual diamond

“It’s all about management,” she tells The42 at the launch of the 2019 All-Ireland championship. “People say, ‘How do you do it?’ but talking to some of the other girls here today — they’re dual too — and it’s all about communication.

“Once you have the right people involved then you can just say to them, ‘I’m going to be here’. Normally what I try to do is have a calendar for each month, and send it on to whoever’s involved.

“If there’s any problems then, it’s normally just sorted or you get a, ‘Go ahead, that’s perfect for me’.

You know what you’re doing then and you’re not worried about, ‘Jesus, where am I going to go on Friday, this or that?’ That’s the way I used to be when I played dual earlier on but it’s easier just to set it out. 

Like anything in life, experience makes everything easier. Year on year, she’s finding her schedule less and less difficult to plan and organise, which obviously adds to her enjoyment of both codes.

With every word, Foxe’s love for both football and camogie shines through, and it’s fair to say that she couldn’t pick one over the other if it came down to it.

“It’s nice. If you’re with a county team and you’re training three times a week with camogie, let’s say you have a loss on Sunday, it’s very hard to go back on the Tuesday or whatever. It’s nice to be always kind of fresh looking at it.

“At least you can get a break from these things. I know it’s easy for the girls who are always involved [in one set-up] to say, ‘Well Chloe has only been here once for the last two weeks’ but at different times, you have different priorities.

It’s important to keep your priorities lying where the next important match is for either code.

“It’s nice to be able to brush against one and come back to the other. There are times in sport where you have losses, it’s important to be able to deal with it in different ways.

Foxe is a key player on the Wexford camogie side.

Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“That’s just how I deal with it. Then again you have the other side of it. When things go well, you say, ‘God, I want to keep playing football’ or ‘I want to keep playing camogie’. There’s that way as well, you can look at it both ways.” 

The 22-year-old, who’s also a talented soccer player with her local club Stoney Rovers when she can fit it in, mentioned the importance of understanding coaches and managers already, but adds just how important a solid closer support network around her is.

Friends and family are massive for the Wexford star, although her time is very limited.

“Most of the time with friends, they’d say, ‘Are you free Saturday? Are you free Friday?’ It’s just like, ‘Nah, not really,’” she laughs. “You’d always pick out one Saturday maybe in four weeks’ time or something like that and they book you in for then. 

I definitely always try to make time for family, it’s the most important. Those are the ones that come to your matches and support you all the time so it’s nice to be able to spend time with them as well. 

Easier said than done, at times though. 

Life lessons

A computer and data science student in UCD, Foxe is currently on placement with Liberty Insurance — coincidentally the championship’s sponsors — and just had to come down a few stairs for the launch in their headquarters in Blanchardstown.

Living on the other side of Dublin in Dun Laoghaire, it’s evident that Foxe is enjoying her work. But it really is all go between the job, commuting to and fro, and home for training, camogie and football.

It’s a nice spin to work. I drive over, it’s about half an hour, 40 minutes in the car. But it’s much worse on the days that you’re training. You’re leaving the house at seven o’clock and you’re not home til half 11 or that.

“You’re putting in time on the road you know, because it would make no sense for me to go back to Dun Laoghaire so I go straight from here and hit the road to Wexford, stop for a coffee, put on the tunes and try to get there as quick as you can.”

That’s twice a week, normally. Well, Wednesday and Friday but staying at home for the weekend softens the blow the second time round.

“It’s the preparation that goes into it that people don’t see,” she notes.”I like to prepare things for the next day so the Tuesday night, you’re cooking your dinner. 

Striking the sliotar in 2017.

Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

“It’s all about preparation and that’s the worst part of it — the preparation that goes into training and everything when you are living away from home. The worst evenings are probably when it’s raining because number one, the traffic is a curse.

Sympathy, I don’t really look for but you’re never really going to get it anyway. I always say to my family, ‘Ah, Jesus, I’m so tired after driving down’ or whatever… never give a shit, no chance!

“You’re better off just to knuckle down and go ahead with it. I made a choice to play county so that’s the commitment you’re faced with.”

The thing is though, once she’s on the field, she’s happy. 

That makes the horrible journey down the road, the driving through the tiredness and the traffic, worth it. 

“Exactly,” Foxe smiles. “I probably didn’t realise it from another person’s point-of-view until I actually became that person.

“I remember looking at girls that came down from Dublin when I was doing my Leaving Cert or when I was younger playing county, and I used to think, ‘Sure they have it handy as well…’

But no, it’s completely different. Until you’re in that person’s shoes you don’t quite understand it. 

While camogie and Gaelic football are the St Martin’s ace’s two main sports, her love for soccer and how much she enjoys playing it shines through from time to time. But unfortunately, with inter-county in full swing across the summer, there’s no room for that. Something has to give.

With college out of the way, the focus is on club and county — so four teams — and she’s well and truly kept on her toes. It’s not a whole pile more, but what about when she’s at full tilt with the six teams? What is that like?

“It’s very difficult,” she concedes. “Normally the club is always the one that suffers the most. It’s hard for the players who only play club to understand that, ‘Chole — or whoever plays county — is never here but she’s actually training as well’.

I think once the players understand… management are very good on both sides, football and camogie at club level. But yeah, the players, their understanding is kind of crucial in regard to being accepted on the team. Obviously performance plays a factor as well.”

Success stories

The euphoric highs and gut-wrenching lows associated with sport are something Foxe has become pretty well accustomed to through the years. There are ups and downs, and peaks and troughs both on and off the pitch, and you have to take the good with the bad, the highs with the lows.

With clubmate and Wexford hurling coach Mags D’Arcy at the homecoming.

Source: Mags D’Arcy/Twitter.

A few weeks back, she was part of the Wexford football side that landed their first Leinster intermediate championship title since 2007. Foxe chipped in with two points for Anthony Masterson’s side in the final against Meath, on a Sunday the Slaneysiders won’t forget anytime soon.

There was another one of those earlier this year in Croke Park, as Foxe’s beloved club St Martin’s contested their first All-Ireland senior camogie club decider on the biggest stage in Gaelic games.

The day didn’t end as hoped, with Slaughtneil claiming three in-a-row, but it was about much more than that for the Wexford outfit. It was about the bigger picture.

“We called the whole year a journey and I think we’re still really on that journey,” Foxe beams. “It was an absolutely incredible thing to be a part of.

The enjoyment level of it was something that I had never seen before in a sporting context. I had never got to a county All-Ireland, I had never even dreamed of playing in Croke Park before so that was a dream come true to play in Croke Park.

“Even if it didn’t go well on the day, it’s still something I’ll look back on. You learn a lot from days like that as well. I think the team, we can take a lot from what we experienced last year into this year.”

“We’re definitely not looking that far ahead this year, it’s fierce competitive,” she notes, not allowing herself get too carried away.

“I know people probably wouldn’t see it but it’s fierce competitive at a county level. The contest is well and truly alive in the county at least, so it makes it all the more enjoyable. Look, if you’re not enjoying a thing… that’s the most important part of it.”

But that day in Croke Park and the opportunity to play in the famous stadium was definitely one to savour, that’s for sure, despite the horrendous weather conditions. 

The enjoyment levels were through the roof, against all odds.

To be honest with you it was a dream before, and in my dream I used to always think that the sun would be shining, fresh-cut grass… you just kind of have this vision of rainbows and unicorns, and it was far from that. 

“I think I was the only one that day that didn’t go out onto the pitch until we were actually running out,” Foxe, an assured leader of the young squad, continues.

“That was probably a mistake. I didn’t go out, I just stayed in the dressing room until half two or whatever it was. I remember thinking, ‘When I go out here, I want it to be what I imagined’ but no, I got a harsh reality!

In action for St Martin’s in Croke Park.

Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“I remember thinking, ‘Ah, it’s just a bit of rain. It’s nothing I haven’t played in before.’ Next thing, the white stuff started coming from the sky. It was madness. It was definitely not a dream, probably a nightmare in regards the weather but yeah, again, we learn from these things.”

Turbulent times

While Foxe was fully focused on the club scene at that time, the county set-up was in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Wexford ended a disastrous Division 1 league campaign with relegation to the second tier, but it was off-the-field matters that dictated the downfall.

In January, they were unable to field a team against Cork with no manager in place. Martin Carey, brother of Kilkenny legend DJ, had been in charge, but ended his reign prior to the start of the league. 

With Buffers Alley man Barry Kennedy now at the helm, there’s some sort of regularity back and hope that the side can push on.

Championship hasn’t been the most straightforward of roads thus far with games postponed because of outbreaks of gastroenteritis among players, losses to Limerick and Kilkenny, and a massive test later today against league champions Galway, but Foxe is insistent on moving on from the turmoil of earlier this year. 

She’s not one to dwell too much on the past, she’d rather look forward but acknowledges it does have to be re-visited. 

It was so difficult at the time,” she frowns. “We were so far away from it but then again, we were still part of the team. We couldn’t do anything at the time because obviously, club came first and foremost then.

“When we couldn’t do anything it was hard but then when we got back into it, it was even harder. It was a harsh awakening to the bliss we had with club and everything going so well to come to something like that then, it was a huge contrast. Since then, we’ve obviously seen what has gone on.

I’ve kind of come to the conclusion that I’ve stopped looking at the past. I think it’s very important for everyone to do that in Wexford camogie.

“We kind of, as a county, everyone looked… for the last three years even when I started playing, it was always looking to that three in-a-row (2010, 2011, 2102). We’re waiting for that to come back again but I don’t think it’s going to come any time soon.”

That’s the reality that everyone has to face, she stresses.

“The group I started with are that middle group and we’re kind of leaders at a county level which is weird. But I think it’s important to look forward, definitely, and to accept that we are in a transition phase.

Dejected after an All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Cork in 2016.

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

“I don’t mind saying that because it is the truth of what it is. There’s no point saying that we’re going to play three All-Irelands again any time soon. It’s what we build.

“There’s great underage coming through. There’s a great spread among the panel of different clubs. It’s great for the underage coming through to see role models in particular clubs, even junior clubs or whatever.”

Silver linings

It’s about looking forward rather than back, as she stresses time and time again, and, as Foxe says, role models have a huge part to play in that.

She takes a trip back through the years as our conversation winds down. 

“It’s fantastic the way the game has gone now, especially for those younger girls to see county standard and even club standard are really broadcasted,” she beams.

Growing up, Kate Kelly was probably my biggest inspiration, and I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon even though she is retired. I got to actually play with her which was a dream come true in that regard. 

She thinks it was two years in which they battled together in the purple and gold, starting together the second year after Foxe broke through. She goes on to tell a lovely story.

“I remember once in Waterford we were down by a point, Kate got the ball on the 45 on the right hand side.

I remember thinking, ‘Jesus, don’t shoot, will ya?’ It just sailed over the crossbar and that was probably the most mind-blowing moment in my county career so far anyway. To have Kate Kelly doing it, just being your inspiration, drives you on that bit further, yeah.

“It feels like you’re still looking at the telly really when you’re standing there and the ball’s sailing over the bar.”

For a moment like that to hold such a special place in Foxe’s heart is touching, really. And it definitely hammers home the importance of good role models. 

So much so that Foxe is now doing her bit now too.

“I started doing a bit of work with the underage in Clongeen,” she concludes, explaining how that’s the club in her home parish but she joined St Martin’s at 10.

It’s so important because I didn’t have that when I was that age, I didn’t have a team. That’s why I had to go and play somewhere else. 

“It’s important to inspire those younger girls, they’re absolutely fantastic.”

Important it is. The future is bright.

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