Nobody knows better than the Irish the role genetics and environment can play in producing sporting superstars. It is why we are world leaders in the thoroughbred breeding world writes Daragh O'Conchuir.
There is plenty of evidence of this amongst humans too, even though unions aren’t strategically arranged, unlike the Galileo-Ouija Board partnership that produced latest equine superstar, Australia.
Take the Mulcahy sisters, Claire, Niamh and Judith. Their mother, Vera played camogie for Limerick and won an All-Ireland club title with Ahane. Their father, Ger also lined out for the famed club and county, having originally hurled with his native Dromin Athlacca.
Vera is a Mackey. Everyone knows Mick Mackey, one of the most celebrated hurlers around, captain twice as Limerick won All-Irelands in 1934, 1936 and 1940. Mick was Vera’s uncle but her father, John was a gifted operator too, a mainstay of the Shannonsiders’ best ever hurling unit. So the pedigree is there.
Claire – recently engaged to Irish rugby international, Sean Cronin – returned to the Limerick camogie panel this year and the siblings are enjoying the dynamic of being together with the county for the first time since 2010.
They are all talented but Niamh was prodigious from an early age. A county junior in 2004, while only 14, she made her senior debut the following season in an All-Ireland semi-final against Cork, alongside current goalkeeper, Síle Moynihan. Young Player of the Year in 2007, she has gone on to confirm the impression that she was special.
For good measure, Mulcahy turned out to be a brilliant soccer player too, playing for Ireland from U15 to U19 and with the Irish Universities at the World Student Games. Five years ago, the time came to make a decision. It wasn’t straightforward but camogie and her heritage tugged on her heartstrings in a fashion soccer could never muster.
She is cool about being the talismanic figure, modestly attributing most of the attention to her being a forward and freetaker. Any pressure, she insists, is internal. And it’s the same with the familial history.
“When myself and our two sisters were younger, it would have been mentioned to us a lot but there’ s no pressure” says Mulcahy.
“I think it’s great that all the family play as well. It’s great when you can go home and talk about it, and they understand. If you’ve had a bad game, they might try to point out a few good aspects, and if you’ve a good game they’ll point out things you can improve on. It’s ideal really.”
What you realise is that there is an acknowledgement of the strong Mackey link, it has no bearing now apart from being a source of pride
“You’d hear plenty about them. There wouldn’t have been any footage back then so you’re really just relying on the stories people tell you to judge how great they were. We can’t really say ourselves. But plenty people seem to have the same stories so they seem fairly reliable.
“Just hearing about Limerick winning All-Ireland titles, and Ahane winning a crazy amount of senior club titles. We weren’t around when Limerick won in ’73, so hearing about Limerick’s success is always nice.”
The 24-year-old primary school teacher is currently on the lookout for a job after two years temping but camogie is a welcome distraction now. She feels that it is time for Limerick to return to the top tier once more and then stay there. They have been a bit of a yo-yo outfit in the past but appear better equipped for the step up this time around, if they make it.
Despite an impressive season in Division 1 of the League, when they only lost out on a semi-final place in a play-off, and a championship campaign that has laid waste to four opponents (with a points difference of plus 76), last year’s beaten finalists are very wary of Waterford in the first of the two Liberty Insurance intermediate semi-finals at Dr Cullen Park tomorrow.
“The matches in the group stages were a lot tougher than the scorelines portrayed. Against Galway we were actually losing at half time so we had to come out there and dig deep to get a result. In the other games, we got off to great starts which deflated the other teams a bit.
“In the past couple of years (2013, 2012), we’ve played Waterford four times and only beaten them once so we know they’re a great team and we know it’s going to take an excellent performance from us to come out on top.”
*as produced in the Irish Independent.
Limerick v Waterford, 1.45pm Dr Cullen Park, Saturday August 16th