Thursday 19 September 2019

O'Connor wants to show local kids that bad path isn't the only way

Gaelic games have always been about belonging, a representation of your roots (stock photo)
Gaelic games have always been about belonging, a representation of your roots (stock photo)

If she has heard it once, she has heard it a thousand times and it really grinds her gears. "You should transfer to a senior club. Your game will improve no end."

Even talking about it makes Amy O'Connor angry. For starters, she is doing OK, having made the transition from underage soccer international, who played in a European Championship U-19 semi-final for Ireland, to winning four All-Ireland camogie titles with Cork.

But it isn't even that.

Gaelic games have always been about belonging, a representation of your roots. Cork is the highest level of that but the deepest ties will always be around the streets you grew up in.

For O'Connor, that's Knocknaheeny.

She is, of course, aware of the anti-social elements that exist in Cork's northside suburb - how could she not be? But this is her place. She is a product of it, albeit an unusual product.

But her achievements point to a proof of possibility, a rebuttal to the scourge of accepting inevitability.

Apart from her sporting prowess, O'Connor is brilliant academically too. She was encouraged by her parents to dream big. She got a scholarship to UCC to become the first member of her family to go to university.

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In three weeks' time, she will sit her last exam and all going well, will depart the Royal College of Surgeons with a pharmacy masters.

"I just want to show people that you don't have to go down the (expected) route," says O'Connor passionately.

"Unfortunately, in our area there is terrible drugs, alcohol, lack of education.

"I am very, very proud to be from Knocknaheeny. I love the place, I will probably live there for the rest of my life."

Perhaps the roots to the locality is why soccer eventually gave way to camogie.

"I love camogie. I genuinely love the game," she adds.

So there is nowhere Amy O'Connor would rather be tonight than the LIT Gaelic Grounds (7.15), taking on Galway for a place in this year's final.

  • Cork v Galway, Live, RTÉ2, 7.15

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