By Daragh Ó Conchúir
One of the greatest players of the modern era, she will always be known within camogie circles as Mary Leacy.
Right now though, the three-time All-Star centre-back is in the process of transitioning to Mary Hughes, having gotten married in December.
It is a little strange, as she ferries her marriage cert around with her to rubberstamp the new passport, bank cards and any other means of identity.
In truth though, the identity hasn’t change one iota. She will always be the rock that so many attacks have perished on, mixing timing, reading and crisp striking with a strength in the challenge that has surprised quite a few centre-forwards over the years.
Leacy – we’re sticking with the maiden name for now – and Richard planned their nuptials for December, because she was hoping Oulart-The Ballagh would still be in contention for a second AIB All-Ireland senior camogie championship in a row, and a third in five seasons.
It meant that there was no honeymoon but these are the sacrifices elite sportspeople make. And as a footballer with Kilanerin, Richard gets it. The best laid plans nearly went array however.
“We were lucky because we played the Leinster Final (against St Vincent’s) the Sunday time before the hen and the teams were level going into injury time” says Leacy. “The girls were all on the line going ‘Oh my God, what are we gonna do?’ but we got a point in injury time.”
A replay was narrowly avoided and the pre-marriage shenanigans could pass unobstructed.
“We only took what they call a mini-moon. I didn’t want to miss too much training so we’ve arranged the honeymoon for the summertime.”
That revelation raises another question. Last July, Leacy signalled the possibility of that championship campaign being her last for Wexford. She hasn’t decided yet, or at least isn’t sure enough to make a public proclamation, but having been bred for this game, as the daughter of a member of camogie’s team of the century Margaret O’Leary, she seems to have been around forever.
Leacy made her first appearance at Wexford senior training as a 13-year-old and has only recently turned 30. Most of those that soldiered with her in the intervening period are gone and there is a sense too that having gotten married, it is time to take stock. You couldn’t say she was sure but she is definitely leaning towards moving on to the next phase of her life.
But then, when you are in the middle of it, chasing more All-Ireland success, there is nothing better.
“I realise how lucky we are to be in this position. It’s lovely to be training hard at this time of year, looking forward to an All-Ireland Semi-Final. As the years go by, you do realise how lucky you are. Most other teams in Ireland would give anything to be in the same position as ourselves.”
There can be few facilities populated with such a glow of satisfaction as that housing Oulart-The Ballagh’s finest. Having achieved a rare, if not unique, Leinster double, they are now targeting an All-Ireland combination. Finding pitch space can be problematic but it is a welcome predicament.
The hurlers have endured much heartache to get to this juncture. In a way, the girls have been their role models. It is forgotten now but they too had to suffer plenty of setbacks before crossing the threshold to provincial pre-eminence.
“Both of our successes are mirrored off each other. We lost five Leinster Finals before we won our first one as well. The difference, probably, was that a lot of us were very, very young, and were coming up against Freshford, who were a very experienced team at the time. The fellas have had some very tough opposition too.”
The point is that while defeats like that leave scars, the girls’ belief was pretty unshakeable, buttressed by garnering an unprecedented and still unmatched five consecutive Féile Division 1 titles from 1998 to 2002.
They knew they were at the early stage of their development against physically more imposing and experienced outfits and were convinced that their time would come, that domestic dominance would eventually pay off.
Winning that first one was sweet though, and as the club went ballistic when the hurlers finally ended their torment, she was delighted.
“Everyone was so happy for the lads because they’ve taken so much stick, particularly from within the county. To win five county championships (2009-2013) was some achievement and they were the only team to have ever done it. Like us, they stuck at it.”
Ironically, the hurlers are managed by Frank Flannery, the man who masterminded Milford’s march to their two All-Ireland successes in 2013 and 2014.
“He’s kind of keeping his head down. They don’t train the nights we’re training but in saying that, he’s been very supportive over the last few months.”
Flannery has moved on but Milford remain serious opposition, having annexed a fourth successive Munster title. And thoughts on whether or not she wears the purple and gold again are firmly parked.
“We’re expecting a very tough, dogged game. It’s all going to go down to who wants it more on the day.
“My first priority is club and it always has been. So it’s where all my concentration is going at the moment.”
AIB All-Ireland Senior Club Championship Semi-Finals
Sunday January 31st
Killimor (Galway) v Loughgiel Shamrocks (Antrim)
St. Tiarnach's Park, Clones, Co. Monaghan
Referee: Alan Lagrue (Kildare)
Milford (Cork) v Oulart-The Ballagh (Wexford)
Carriganore (WIT), Waterford
Referee: Karl O'Brien (Dublin)
AIB All-Ireland Intermediate Club Championship Semi-Finals
Sunday January 31st
Cahir (Tipperary) v Tullaroan (Kilkenny)
St. Lachtain's GAA, Freshford, Co. Kilkenny
Referee: Cathal Egan (Cork)
Eglish (Tyrone) v Eyrecourt (Galway)
Coralstown/Kinnegad GAA, Co. Westmeath
Referee: Liz Dempsey (Kilkenny)
Adults – €10
Students/OAPs – €5
U18s – €2
U12s – FREE