As a child, Ursula Jacob was a big fan of The Sunday Game. She never missed it. Now, sometimes, she has to pinch herself that she is a regular on the show herself.
“I find it hard to believe at times,” she reflects. “I always watched it, growing up. And now here I am sitting on the same couch as the likes of Anthony Daly, Jackie Tyrrell and Dónal Óg Cusack. They are the players that I looked up to.”
Jacob played on one of the best teams of them all – the Wexford side that won three All-Irelands in a row in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
When she retired, becoming a pundit formed the perfect bridge. She relishes the role. But, like so many of her colleagues, there can be a price to pay. Like the online abuse.
Jacob was getting her fair share when she decided “enough was enough.” She is glad that she made a stand.
“Yeah, 100pc. It was impacting me on a personal level. A lot of people were saying, ‘Ignore the trolls,’ but, for me, sometimes you do need to stand up. It doesn’t mean it’s always the easy thing to do.
“I have received a massive amount of support. It just shows there are a lot of kind and genuine people out there as well. Sometimes you have to express how you feel, you have to express that that is not acceptable on any level.
“Social media is brilliant in so many ways, we all use it. People told me to go off social media but that’s not the solution to the problem either.
“The solution is calling out these people and letting them know they need to think before they say such nasty personal attacks on anybody.
“I’m very open to anybody disagreeing with my opinion, but I’m not open to anybody making personal remarks about me, about my voice, my accent or whatever. As I said at the time, I’m very proud to be from Wexford – and I’m not looking to change for these people.
“I’m also not there to make up numbers, I’m there because I have a voice, I have an opinion and I’m willing to give that opinion.
“At least I’m brave enough and confident enough to go on television and do that, whereas these people hide behind computer screens or their phones and get a kick out of trolling people.
“I’m not naive enough to think the trolls are going to go away but I definitely feel a sense of power now because they are not going to bother me going forward.
“For me, a negative situation turned into a positive thing because it has helped me regain my confidence – and it just shows I am not going to be a pushover either.”
The support of her colleagues was much appreciated.
“It’s not just female pundits getting it. I would have spoken to the likes of Pat Spillane and these fellas, who have probably got worse things said about them, and I have to say the guys have been all so brilliant on The Sunday Game.”
Jacob believes camogie has certainly benefited from more television exposure. It was quite different in the past.
“Back then, you were lucky to see one live camogie game on television whereas now all the knockout matches are on TV, and that’s brilliant. It helps to bring the game to a wider audience.”
She feels that Kilkenny, Cork and Galway are very much top of the charts.
“They deserve huge credit. I have been retired for seven years and I can see that the game has moved onto the next stage now.
“Camogie is in a good place. The players are fitter and stronger. It’s a better spectacle. But it needs to continue to grow. Kilkenny, Cork and Galway are the standard-bearers, and it’s up to the other counties to come up to them. Hopefully, we’ll see it in the next couple of years.”
Electric Ireland’s three-year sponsorship of the All-Ireland minor championships and the third-level colleges competitions will help.
“It’s backing the next generation. I was lucky enough to play at minor level and in the Ashbourne Cup, and these competitions are so important for developing young players.”