Saturday 25 November 2017

where are they now?

Liz Neary

(Former Kilkenny camogie player)

In a senior inter-county career that spanned 19 years, Kilkenny star Liz Neary amassed an astonishing seven All-Ireland camogie titles.

Surprisingly, though, Neary wasn't born with a hurl in her hand. The youngest of six and the only girl, she didn't play any camogie until she attended the Presentation Secondary School in Kilkenny.

"Playing camogie in school gave me some of my best memories," she says. "We had a great time. It was a small school but we did really well, we had no money, we had no facilities, we didn't even have a pitch. We played on a small piece of ground in the school and we won two All-Ireland colleges titles."

Neary wasn't playing too long when she caught the attention of the county manager. In fact, she was still in school when she played her first championship game for the Kilkenny seniors in 1968. The inter-county scene back then was very different to how it is now. The game was 12-a-side and played on a shorter, narrower pitch. Backroom teams and fitness sessions were unheard of the game was purely focused on hurling.

"I never did any regular training, I mainly played matches, I simply didn't have the time. I was a nurse all my life so our hours were demanding, we could be on night duty for 16 nights in a row. We couldn't fit it in even if we wanted to. There was just one manager for the team then and for most of my career that was Tom Ryan. He was an absolutely brilliant trainer -- he did so much work with us."

For the most of her career, Neary played with the St Paul's club in Kilkenny and by the time the club disbanded in the early 1990s, she had collected 20 county titles. She then went on to join Austin Stacks in Dublin where she won another county title.

Neary also earned a number of personal awards during her career. In 1981 and 1986, she was honoured with the prestigious Player of the Year Award and in 2004 she was named in the right corner-back position on the Camogie Team of the Century.

The Kilkenny woman retired from nursing at St Luke's Hospital in Kilkenny two years ago.

Neary is a keen golfer nowadays and plays off 12, although her hobby has been curtailed by a recent hip replacement. She is currently in the process of recovering from the operation and hopes to get back on the course as quickly as possible.

Sunday Independent

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