by Daragh Ó Conchúir
NOT much fazes Katie Power but when it came to stepping out in front of the camera in sports gear that did not include a Kilkenny or Piltown jersey, she was untypically unsure.
Power would never have thought of showcasing herself in any way other than on a Camogie pitch, something she has been doing at Senior, and mostly at elite level, in the black and amber since 2008.
Always highly skilled, at 5’5’’, she needed to work on her strength. With the physicality of Camogie having ramped up in recent years as the professional level of training having begun to match that of the male Gaelic Games codes, it is notable how influential she has remained despite her diminutive stature, coping with anything the opposition throw at her.
She is an avowed believer in the benefits of conditioning, to such an extent that she is training to be become a qualified instructor.
MC Future Fitness is a regular haunt and the owner, Matt Cooney was organising a shoot to raise funds for Nenagh-based well-being centre Áras Folláin, while also hoping to highlight the link between physical and mental fitness in the process.
He asked Power about posing for some shots and she agreed, in that Irish way of not wanting to let anyone down and not really thinking about the consequences.
She almost gave in to the doubts that dogged her subsequently but conquered them. That it was for mental health, an area that has touched most of us in some way, kept her on board in the end, although it wasn’t the only reason.
Recognising that she was in a battle with her mind, the 26-year-old felt that she would be better for the experience, would be healthier mentally herself for having overcome her hang-ups.
They say that if you want to be successful in anything, you have to be willing to be uncomfortable. So Power braced herself and stepped in front of the lens.
“I was freaking out, I have to say” she admits freely. “It was brilliant to do because it was out of my comfort zone. We can all do things we’re comfortable with. I was uncomfortable doing that but after, I thought it was absolutely class and I’d have no problem doing another one now.
“I was nearly going to pull out of it but I knew it would be good for me.
“The fitness trend has gone through the roof, which is a great thing, but I don’t think we’re educated enough, especially girls.
“On social media and the rest, you see girls and they’re absolutely ripped but that’s not real. I had to be convinced to do that photo shoot, whereas these fake models would have loved that.
“I would have been those girls, always looking at other people saying ‘I wish I had this’ and ‘I wish I had that’ but I think to be strong, more so than skinny, is good for your mental health as well. And that’s on everyone’s doorstep, it’s something that everyone knows.
“I enjoy going to the gym… I like to go for head space. You could have a busy day, you could have a crap day but you go in there, you’re by yourself and you do what you want to do.
“I have a goal and that’s Camogie so I want to be as fast as I can and as strong as I can and I have that to train for. There are people trying to be other people and I just want to be myself. I don’t want to be seven stone and real skinny. I want to be strong and tough so I can bring it out on the field.”
The reaction was hugely positive, and understandably so when you see the photos. She is certainly proud of the results, not in a vain way but as visual confirmation that the hard work is paying off. Most of the satisfaction though comes from highlighting mental health.
“I would feel strongly about it… It’s hard for anyone to talk about it but I suppose the more awareness it gets, if you can help one or two people and if you can help yourself, it’s making a big difference.”
A three-time All-Star, Power is coming off a tremendous spring that ended with her named Player of the League as Kilkenny won their third consecutive title.
She began her career, under Ann Downey, winning the same competition in 2008. They were still kids when they made it to the All-Ireland the following year. They weren’t ready and Downey stepped away.
They got near to ending the long wait from when Downey lifted the O’Duffy Cup in ’94 a couple of more times before finally ending the drought at their fourth attempt in a final in 2016. It was no surprise that Downey was back in charge.
“She’s just a brilliant woman. She is Kilkenny Camogie. And probably like Derek McGrath was renowned as the father figure of Waterford hurlers, she is the mother figure for us. She mightn’t like hearing that but she’s some woman. Having someone like that, that we all absolutely have a huge respect for, it’s unreal.
“And then you’ve (her twin) Angela there every single night. Breda Holmes. The two of them have nearly 20 All-Irelands between them and they’re there at every training, giving us our drinks, giving us our food, not a bother on them. And they’re technically not on the management team, they’re there to help us. When you see them doing that for the love of Kilkenny Camogie and to try get us over the line, that’s massive.”
They got their Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Championship off to a winning start against Limerick. Next up are neighbours Waterford at Walsh Park this evening (5pm).
“They’re a young side but they’re not conceding that much. I know they conceded four goals to Galway but apart from that, there hasn’t been much.
“We played them in the League and we found it hard to get scores. We do know the defence is going to be quite packed. They played last week and we haven’t played in three weeks so we’re going to have to try to get up to the right tempo fairly quick.”
Danielle Morrissey, Aoife Doyle and Grace O’Donnell have just completed their Leaving Cert and are pushing to start or be involved at some stage.
Downey has a history of giving youth its head, having released the shackles on Power and so many of her colleagues a decade ago.
Now, the mind is set on optimising what they have, and doing whatever it takes in that pursuit.
“A few years ago, when the likes of myself, Denise (Gaule) and Shelly (Farrell) started, we were a real young team. Now 10 years are passed and we just want to go as hard as we can, as long as we can.”
To make a donation go to https://www.ifundraise.ie/fundraiser/11370334_mcfuturefitness-charity-photoshoot-for–ras-foll–in.html
Fixtures: Saturday June 30th
Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Championship Group 1
Limerick v Galway, Bruff GAA @ 5pm
Waterford v Kilkenny, Walsh Park @ 5pm
Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Intermediate Championship Group 1
Antrim v Galway, Portglenone GAA @ 5pm
Kildare v Kilkenny, Hawkfield Kildare GAA Centre of Excellence @ 5pm
Tipperary v Westmeath, The Ragg @ 5pm