Murray returns to fray as Ethiopia trip puts life in perspective
Two images of last month's trip to Africa will stick forever with Cork camogie goalkeeper Aoife Murray.
One was the joyous sight of the first game of camogie ever played in Ethiopia, in a tiny village of Ropi in rural Siraro.
"We brought jerseys, hurleys, sliotars, showed them how to pull on the ground and that was it, they were off," she recalled. "All the people in the village heard the noise and came down to watch." The other memory was a stark contrast.
Ethiopia is once again in the grip of two-year famine that is tragically reminiscent of the 1984 scenes that prompted Live Aid. At one point she saw a donkey pee in a puddle on the road and a little boy filling his water bottle from the same spot.
Murray and Wexford goalie Mags Darcy visited Ethiopia as ambassadors for the Camogie Association's new partnership with ChildFund Ireland. "This isn't just box-ticking for corporate responsibility," she stresses. "The Camogie Association, like ChildFund, is all about kids, education and community, it's a perfect partnership.
"Education is one of the best ways out of poverty and ChildFund's 'Dream Bikes' scheme focuses on helping to get young girls to school safely and keep them there." They presented 10 bikes to children who walk between one and two hours to get to class. "There's 10 million suffering famine in Ethiopia so for children to get to a school that provides clean water, a supplementary meal and education, it's a complete lifeline for them," she said.
She also met Birtukan (5), the little girl she sponsors for just "the cost of cutting out one of my weekly coffees." On her return Murray, who won her seventh All-Ireland last year despite a series of back problems, reversed her decision to retire from inter-county camogie. Cork had failed to make the league semi-finals and, with her brother Paudie in charge, it was presumed he persuaded her back but she says no. "It was on mind before I went," she says. "Once that hour goes back and there's a stretch in the evening, you start wondering, 'What's training like tonight?'"
She made her first return to the Cork starters last weekend when they reversed two earlier losses to Limerick this season by beating them 0-12 to 0-10 in a controversial Munster final. The Shannonsiders were aggrieved that eight minutes of added time were played, in which Katriona Mackey got Cork's winner.
"It was a surprise to start," she says. "It felt great to get back."
Her Ethiopian trip will feature on an upcoming Nationwide special on RTE television and next stop, with Cork, is a championship opener on June 18. For more on Murray's trip to Ethiopia, see www.childfund.ie