Saturday 16 December 2017

For Mags, camogie is truly a case of lovely hurling

Camogie enjoys a reputation as a formidable women’s sport, as tough as its  ‘brother’, hurling. Alison O’Riordan meets one of its stars, Mags D’Arcy

Wexford Camogie player Mags D’Arcy
Wexford Camogie player Mags D’Arcy

Alison O’Riordan

Wexford Camogie player Mags D’Arcy is looking forward to her fifth All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship this summer. The 26-year-old goal keeper from the vibrant parish of Piercestown, just outside Wexford town, is going for broke to bring home the O’Duffy cup in September to the South-East Region of Leinster.

Mags is a winner of two camogie All Stars in 2007 and 2010 (awarded annually to the best player in each of the 15 playing positions in Gaelic football and hurling) and four All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championships in 2007, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

A daughter of Ornagh (née O’Mahony), a former Wexford player, Mags is a competitor of notable ability since she first picked up the Irish stick-and-ball team sport from an early age. “I suppose when I was younger, most girls were happy to bounce around with a few Barbie dolls where I preferred putting sliotars through windows. Thankfully for my parents, my aim slightly improved over the years.

“Family, of course, were also influential and continue to keep my feet firmly on the ground. My mum, Ornagh, who works tirelessly, developing the underage talent both with club and county, also played camogie and my grandfather, Jim O’Mahony, was chairman of St. Martin’s GAA Club in Piercestown/Murrintown-Wexford for 17 years. For me, they both define why the GAA is so special.”

Camogie is played by 100,000 women in Ireland and worldwide, largely among Irish communities and the inter county sensation is one of these such women, steeped in the history of the GAA.

“Camogie is unique. No other country in the world has a female indigenous sport like it. The game itself has everything: speed, power, ability, reaction, balance, coordination and skill, and the beauty is that because we as players are continuously trying to improve our performance, the game itself is continuing to thrive every year. On a personal note, camogie has given me some very special moments with my family and friends.”

With matches contested by two teams of 15 a side, using a field 130m to 145m long and 80m to 90m wide, Mags, now one of the most decorated goalkeepers in the game, was in her early teens when she first got the call-up to the Wexford senior camogie team. She was ecstatic.

“I received a very fortunate phone call at the age of 14. My first game was against Galway in the first round of the championship that year, it was quite the baptism.”

Very familiar with the H-shape goals, playing as goalkeeper has been a favourite position for the inter-county star throughout her sporting career and, to her credit, she has four Senior All Ireland Championships, four Leinster Senior Championships and two Ashbourne Cups with UCD on the back of this.

A tough and gruelling sport which is almost identical to the game of hurling played by men, the Poc Fada champion works hard with a taxing weekly training regime in order to compete at the top level of the GAA these days.

Commuting from Dublin where she works as the Member Services Manager at the UCD Sport & Fitness Club, she travels to Wexford up to three times a week.

“Matches and training vary – in a typical week, I would commute to Wexford for collective team training two or three times, plus a club session in Dublin. Between club and county, I’d have a match on average every second week throughout the camogie season.”

Treating her body like a car, the All Star player, who is responsible for ensuring members in UCD enjoy the Olympic 50m Swimming Pool and gym through the highest level of customer service, fuels her body with the correct nutritious foods.

“I try to keep my diet varied as much as possible so I have to be painfully organised. I’m a firm believer in how you treat your body outside of training is just as, if not more, important than training itself.

“Year by year the saying, ‘you are what you eat’ becomes more highlighted for me.”

Managing her recovery from training and matches is made easier through her place of work at UCD Sport & Fitness.

“The facility houses Ireland’s newest state-of-the-art 50m swimming pool and spa area. Be it loosening out the muscles in the swimming pool or taking a yoga class, I really do have no excuses to keep my mobility in peak form.”

Finding time to combine her work and sport isn’t a problem for the exceptional sportswoman.

“I consider myself very fortunate to work for a company who accommodate my demanding training schedule.”

With Glanbia Consumer Foods having recently announced its new partnership with the GAA and the Gaelic Players Association, to promote the new Avonmore Protein Milk, Mags is delighted to be on board as an acting ambassador. The milk is a supplement she considers essential to aid her performance in and recovery from sport and exercise.

Noreen Roche is a sports dietitian who works with the Kilkenny Hurling Team and assesses players’ requirement and body composition, sets goals, devises appropriate meal plans and monitors players’ progress.

She also provides advice on suitable foods before training and recovery strategies.

Ms Roche says:“Protein is an essential nutrient in the diet, being used to manufacture body proteins that have important structural and functional roles. Structural proteins are needed, for example, to build connective tissue and muscle.

“Regulatory proteins act as enzymes or transport vehicles. Proteins are made up of building blocks of about 20 different amino acids.

“Eight of these amino acids are essential and must come from the diet.

“Players differ from sedentary individuals, in terms of the quantity, timing and quality of protein intake necessary, due to their training. Proteins are involved in the building of skeletal muscle.

“The protein requirements for players can almost double from 0.8g protein per kg per day to 1.7 g per kg per day, depending on the type of training.”

She recommends that protein intake should be distributed throughout the day with one making sure to also have a snack containing protein at night time.

“Recovery processes are complex and include refuelling, rehydrating and repairing. Protein plays a key role in this process.

Players need to eat enough to make sure that nutritional recovery is taking place and what is key is that muscle synthesis exceeds protein breakdown.

“A protein-carbohydrate snack or meal after training makes good sense - not only for muscle repair and adaptation to training, but to provide carbohydrate fuel to restore muscle glycogen levels.

“Timing is important, with most recommendations suggesting this should be done within 30 minutes of finishing training. Eating both carbohydrate and protein can also help prepare the player if training will take place again in the following 24 hours.”

Looking ahead to 2014 and a new season, committed player Mags D’Arcy is of the opinion that her purple and gold county team has what it takes to win another All Ireland medal for Wexford in camogie this year.

Optimistic as ever, Mags believes that in addition to her hard working ethics and the addition of milk to her diet, the summer ahead will hopefully involve “a long walk up the steps of the Hogan Stand this September.”


Mags D’Arcy’s wins to date

* Senior All-Ireland Championship 2007, 2010, 2011 (pictured left and above with teammates Kate Kelly and Mary Leacy) and 2012

* Leinster Senior Championship 2003, 2004, 2007 and 2014

* Ashbourne Cup with UCD 2007 and 2008.


The best  sources of  protein  in the diet

Proteins are involved in the building of skeletal muscle. The protein requirements for players can almost double from 0.8g protein per kg per day to 1.7 g, depending on the type of training.

Protein is made up of amino acids which are found in both animal and vegetable foods. Only animal foods contain the essential amino acids.

High quality sources of protein include dairy, eggs, meat, chicken, fish. A mixture of protein sources should be included in the diet, and distributed at each meal and snack.

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