Driven O’Connor happy to have chosen camogie
Former soccer international relishing involvement with Cork machine
By Daragh Ó Conchúir
Amy O’Connor was blessed with a rare talent that has seen her become a high achiever not just in sport, at elite level in both Camogie and soccer, but in her academic pursuits too.
Despite having just turned 20, there is a remarkable level-headedness about having won two Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Championships, played in a UEFA U19 European Championships Semi-Final and just as importantly in her view, done well enough in her Leaving Cert to enable her to flourish in UCC, where she is studying pharmacy.
Such a mindset is conducive to succeeding but so too is a driven work ethic, not to mention excellent time management.
The demands are such that O’Connor has had to call time on her international soccer career however, for the moment anyway. There are a number of reasons, but right at the top is a grá for Camogie.
“We were going to the European Finals with the Irish team and Paudie (Murray) rang me and said would I come up after Minor” says O’Connor of the first approach made to her by the Cork manager.
“I was doing my Leaving Cert. I would have been good at school, I paid a lot of my attention to school life, so I was studying a lot.
“I said that with that and going to the European Finals… I would love to be a part of it but I could understand if he didn’t want me to come in after missing all that training.
“I went training with them once and then I was off for a month with the Irish soccer team. When I came back, I was delighted when he asked me to training again.
“We got to the All-Ireland and then I was due to go to the World Student Games with the Irish team. Instead of going I decided to stay and play Camogie with Cork instead. So it kind of happened gradually.
“I suppose I just love Camogie. I still play soccer – I’m on a soccer scholarship with UCC – and I enjoy it. It’s just I took time off with the Irish team to play Camogie with Cork.”
She isn’t sure if she will ever return to the green jersey.
“It’s a tough one. I actually don’t know. It’s hard because I’m doing pharmacy in college. It’s not an easy course. It’s 9 to 6, Monday to Friday, it’s like a full-time job really. It’s not like you can go away for three weeks and play soccer in a random country around the world and come back then and be expected to know all that again. You miss too much with soccer.
“In my Leaving Cert year I missed 11 weeks of school just playing soccer, so I knew I wouldn’t have been able to do that. With Camogie, you’re in Ireland all the time.
“That was another real big factor (in choosing Camogie). I’d be very career-driven and being a professional footballer as a woman, you’re not going to earn a whole pile, when you could be studying and have a good job.”
Such practicality wouldn’t even allow O’Connor to be swayed by an offer to play in the United States. Being a home bird probably contributed to the call to stick around but she just couldn’t see a future in it, no matter how much fun it might appear.
Of course there are frustrations but as she knows from first-hand experience, the gender issue isn’t confined to Gaelic games.
The government’s commitment to providing €1 million in funding for the Camogie Association, LGFA and WGPA over the next two years is very welcome but there is a long road to travel.
“It would annoy you in some ways, the way people say the boys are putting in so much effort. Fair play to the Senior men’s teams, they deserve all the gear and all the cars and everything that they’re getting.
“But at the end of the day we’re probably putting in the exact same, six days a week, and we don’t get anything like that. But no-one seems to notice that.
“We’re just so used to it. The boys would train the same time as we’d train in CIT. They’re all going out in the same gear and we’re going out in whatever we have.”
And with the Republic of Ireland?
“It was good but at the same time, you were second-class citizens compared to the men again. It’s a female thing, an issue across sport.
“In soccer, professional footballers aren’t earning a fraction of the amount the men are earning. It’s the same across the board.”
So O’Connor is delighted to be a part of the Camogie Association’s Our Game Your Game campaign, aiming to raise the profile of Camogie and awareness of the elite players’ dedication.
It is about being the best you can be and for O’Connor and her Cork team-mates, that has them chasing a third consecutive All-Ireland.
For more information on the Camogie Association’s Our Game Your Game campaign visit www.camogie.ie/ourgameyourgame.asp