McGrath girls blazing trail in Galway
EVERYONE has heard of the Canning brothers of Portumna hurling fame, but what about the McGraths of Sarsfields, who already look set to emulate the Cannings' achievements on the Galway camogie fields.
Dad, Michael 'Hopper' McGrath, was a legendary county hurler and a two-time All-Ireland club winner with Sarsfields in 1993 and '94.
Mum, Geraldine (nee Kilkelly), played hockey to senior international standard, before successfully switching codes, and is in her fourth year as chair of the Galway Camogie Board.
And three of their six children -- all girls -- wear the county colours already.
Niamh (17), Clodagh (15) and Orlaith (14) all played on Galway's All-Ireland-winning U-16 team last year. Niamh was the 2009 Connacht 'Young Player of the Year' and has since progressed to the county seniors, for whom she has been a regular scorer in this year's National League.
"Ciara (4) and Laoise (2) come to all the training sessions, Ciara likes to practise her solos!" laughs Geraldine, who quips that, given the family's sporting passions, "they were all reared in the car!"
Michael won an All-Ireland 'Masters' title as recently as 2005 and only hung up his hurl last year, but he is already deeply involved coaching the club camogie teams. He is not the only famous local hurler helping out, as Joe Cooney and Tom Kenny also have daughters playing.
Geraldine is delighted to see that a new national 'Player Pathway' development programme is one of the key elements being adopted at camogie's annual congress in Newbridge this weekend, where helmets are also expected to become mandatory.
"Camogie has made huge progress in recent years," she says. "Since the game went 15-a-side, it has changed hugely skill-wise and is now on the same lines as hurling. There's huge work being done nationally by Mary O'Connor and her team of development officers.
"Public awareness has grown hugely, too, but there's still plenty of room for improvement and certainly more double-headers with men's games would help further," she said.