by Daragh Ó Conchúir
SOME things in Aoife Prendergast’s life are more straightforward than others.
Right now, she is struggling to map out her future in terms of a career or profession, finding something she might really have a passion for rather than just a means of paying the bills.
There has never been any confusion surrounding sport however. From as long as she can remember, and with the enthusiastic encouragement of her parents, Prendergast has thrown herself headlong into swimming, soccer, hockey and Camogie.
Her sporting prowess earned a scholarship to Waterford IT, where she is in her final year studying recreation and sports management. It will be a nice addition to her CV but the prospect of a lifetime in that sector doesn’t get her hopping out of the cot in the morning, though the weekend work at the leisure centre in Mount Juliet is very welcome at present.
“I would say I will take a year out and I might go back and do a masters or something” she says contemplating what might come next. “It’s hard to know what to do.”
The 22-year-old always knew what to do when it came to Camogie but for a long while it had to battle for her affections with plenty of other pursuits.
Swimming is a real family interest. Two of Aoife’s brothers, David and Paul might have been born with fins, with David a member of the national high-performance squad in Abbotstown.
“I was a swimmer as well back in the day with Kilkenny Swimming Club. We started off in the James Stephens Pool when that was open. Getting up at 5am and being in the pool for 5.30am. Going to school after that. It is a lot of commitment. It makes you very disciplined and very determined.”
Those traits are evident on the pitch, as they were in hockey when she took that up in the famed sports nursery that is Loreto secondary school.
“I was a goalkeeper for hockey. It made you stand up to people and not be afraid of it anyway. You don’t be shying away from the ball. That helps in Camogie!”
Loreto was also where she began playing soccer, as a goalie too. When she went to WIT, she switched to centre-half. Such was her progress that Women’s National League outfit Wexford Youths signed her up.
Throughout all this was Camogie, her brother Eoin having provided the domestic hurling example. Loreto have been dominant at schools level for a number of years, so much so that Prendergast isn’t certain how many All-Irelands she won.
“I don’t remember how many. We won two Junior and a Senior anyway.”
A cruciate knee ligament injury forced her out last year as Wexford Youths won the League and Cup double, another player with strong Camogie connections, four-time Model County All-Ireland winner and triple All-Star Katrina Parrock scoring the winner in the WFAI Cup decider at the Aviva Stadium.
Now, those days are behind her and though she played for WIT as they reached the intervarsity decider this year, it is the black and amber that holds her undivided attention.
“All the sports help you. They are all interlinked, whether it’s the characteristics or the skills. They all helped me develop.
“You can only really commit to one fully as you get older though. I was probably pushing myself too hard. I ran (the injury) into myself.
“I came back last year from doing my cruciate just with the club. I did my rehab and all, proper, so that definitely benefited me and I feel very good. After nine months I was back, and playing full matches after a year. I have had no problems with it so far anyway.”
Áine Fahey and John Scott invited her onto Kilkenny’s Intermediate panel and they did not have to ask twice.
Her power and refusal to take a backward step have been very prevalent as the Noresiders progressed to the Littlewoods Ireland Camogie Leagues Division 2 Final, accounting for Galway to set up the clash with Tipperary.
“It was a tough game, Galway really put it up to us. But we were very happy with our performance, especially in the second half. We just came out. We knew there was a job to be done and luckily it paid off in the end.
“We have a very strong panel at the moment. We don’t have any Minors in with us because they are playing at the moment as well (with an All-Ireland Semi-Final against Cork tomorrow). But between the group that we do have there would be very tough competition. No-one would be secure in their spot. We would all be fighting for places in training which is very beneficial. It makes you train a lot tougher. We are more determined to prove that we deserve our spot on the team.
“Winning a League is not to be underestimated. It would be a good start to the year and set us up for the year ahead in Leinster and in the All-Ireland series.
“You always have to focus on the next game no matter what it is, a Final or a challenge game. You move on from the last game and focus on the next.”
Saturday April 20th
Littlewoods Ireland Camogie Leagues Division 2 Final
Kilkenny v Tipperary, St. Rynagh's GAA, Banagher @ 3pm
Referee: Philip McDonald (Cavan)