Women's shinty 'now possible and acceptable' - Karen Cameron

By Karen CameronVice-president, Women’s Camanachd Association
Karen Cameron (left) in action
Karen Cameron has won many shinty honours

The days when people would remark "that girl can actually hit the ball" are gone and I feel proud that I was involved in helping make women's shinty possible and acceptable.

Coming from a shinty-daft family, I was brought up playing with my brothers and sister, having a hit about whenever we could. Back then, girls just didn't really play.

When I reached 16, I was keen to play. I thought there must be a way and, with the help of my mum and dad being heavily involved in Glengarry Shinty Club, it was agreed we could play a local six-a-side game at the club's annual fundraising day.

The late Sharon Fraser helped and it ended in 12 local women, wives, sisters and even mums playing. There was no turning back; 1996 was the start of women's shinty in Glengarry.

With a bit of research, we found that Dunadd Camanachd and Oban Camacheros had teams too. We made several trips to Lochgilphead to play Dunnadd and vice versa.

But we were not happy with that, so a group, consisting mainly of women from our club decided to pursue this further. We held a meeting with Sheila Wallace and Phillis Breslin of the Camogie Association and they advised us about setting up a working group for women's shinty.

Karen Cameron in action against Ireland
Scotland now play against their camogie counterparts from Ireland

With the formation of a working group, a North and a South League were formed. At long last, competitive women's shinty was being played.

Much to my delight, over the coming years the Women's Camanachd Association was formed and women's shinty grew with competitive leagues, cups, tournaments and representative matches.

Over the years, different league strategies were tried and tested. Having been involved in women's shinty from the beginning, I've been in the fortunate position to see the game develop and the attitudes of others change, which has by no means been an easy task but most definitely pleasurable.

The first on field links with the Camogie Association - the women's version of hurling - were made when Glengarry were invited to play at the Camogie 7's tournament in 1999.

We opened the invite to other clubs and players from Dunadd, Kingussie and Oban joined us as we travelled to Dublin for a memorable weekend, We played in the tournament and then were invited to play the first-ever Scotland v Ireland select as the finale of the day.

Of course, shinty was the winner as now we compete on an annual basis with our Irish counterparts.

My time as a player has had its highs and lows and, since the formation of The Garry Girls in 1996, I have won 11 North/National League titles and six Valerie Fraser Camanachd Cup Gold Medals along with three runners-up.

Scotland's national team
Scotland have managed to get the better of their Irish rivals

I achieved the "double" in 2002, 2004, 2009 and 2011, represented Scotland five times and have played in the North Select squad every year bar three.

Unfortunately, during that time, along with all the usual aches and pains, I have also ruptured my cruciate ligament and dislocated both my shoulders.

Following my knee injury in 2005, I was told to consider hanging up my boots, but three operations on and, with intense physio, I am still playing. However, my baby bump has put a halt on play for now!

Now that the Garry Girls have been on the go for a while, we are in the position of bringing in the "young ones", so hopefully, with a bit more experience behind them, we will get our name back on some trophies soon.

Back in 2005 as my playing days were looking a bit numbered, I had the pleasure of being voted in as the Women's Camanachd Association president and was in that position from 2005 until end of 2011. I'm currently the vice-president.

I feel very fortunate and privileged to have travelled this journey on and off the pitch and have many, many memories, but the most important thing is that women's shinty has grown from strength to strength on and off the pitch.

If you would like to give the game a try, browse the Get Inspired guide to getting into shinty to find out where to start.