Tuesday 25 October 2016

Camógie the right medicine for Cork dual star O'Connor

Daragh Ó Conchúir

Published 25/06/2016 | 02:30

Amy O'Connor, Cork. Photo: Sportsfile
Amy O'Connor, Cork. Photo: Sportsfile

Amy O'Connor was blessed with a rare talent that has seen her become a high achiever not just in sport - at elite level in both camogie and soccer - but in her academic pursuits too.

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Despite having just turned 20, there is a remarkable level-headedness about having won two Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior medals, played in a UEFA U19 European Championships semi-final and done well enough in her Leaving Cert to enable her to flourish in UCC, where she's studying pharmacy.

Such a mindset is conducive to succeeding but so too is a driven work ethic, not to mention time management. The demands are such that O'Connor has had to call time on her international soccer career for the moment anyway. There are a number of reasons, but right at the top is a grá for camogie.

"We were going to the European finals with the Irish team and Paudie (Murray) rang me and said would I come up after minor," says O'Connor of the first approach made by the Cork manager.

"I was doing my Leaving Cert. I would have been good at school, I paid a lot of my attention to school life, so I was studying a lot. I said with that and going to the European finals…I'd love to be a part of it but I could understand if he didn't want me to come in after missing all that training.

"I went training with them once and then I was off for a month with the Irish soccer team. When I came back, I was delighted when he asked me to training again. We got to the All-Ireland and then I was due to go to the World Student Games with the Irish team. Instead of going I decided to stay and play camogie with Cork instead. So it kind of happened gradually.

"I suppose I just love camogie. I still play soccer - I'm on a soccer scholarship with UCC - and I enjoy it."

She isn't sure if she will ever return to the green jersey. "It's a tough one," she explained. "It's hard because I'm doing pharmacy in college. It's not an easy course. It's 9 to 6, Monday to Friday, it's like a full-time job really.

"In my Leaving Cert year I missed 11 weeks school just playing soccer, so I knew I wouldn't have been able to do that. With camogie, you're in Ireland all the time."

Such practicality wouldn't even allow O'Connor to be swayed by an offer to play America. Being a 'home bird' probably contributed to the call to stick around but she just couldn't see a future in it, no matter how much fun it might appear.

Of course there are frustrations but as she knows from first-hand experience, the gender issue isn't confined to Gaelic games. The government's decision to provide €1m in funding for the Camogie Association, LGFA and WGPA over the next two years is very welcome but there is a long road to travel.

"It would annoy you in some ways, the way people say the boys are putting in so much effort. Fair play to the senior men's teams, they deserve all the gear and all the cars and everything that they're getting.

"But at the end of the day we're probably putting in the exact same, six days a week, and we don't get anything like that."

So O'Connor is delighted to be a part of the Camogie Association's 'Our Game Your Game' campaign, aiming to raise the profile of the game and awareness of the elite players' dedication. It is about being the best you can be and for O'Connor and her Cork team-mates, that has them chasing a third All-Ireland in a row, with Clare providing today's opposition.

Irish Independent

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