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Proud Cork Woman Amy O'Connor Blazes Trail For Club And Family

Proud Cork Woman Amy O'Connor Blazes Trail For Club And Family
By PJ Browne Updated

There was a strange moment for Amy O'Connor at the Camogie All-Star awards earlier this month. In a line-up usually well populated by Cork women, she stood as the only Rebel representative.

"I walked in and I didn't know anybody which is unusual," says the four-time All-Ireland winner, speaking at a Littlewoods Ireland event on Tuesday.

"Because, to be fair, with Cork we'd normally have 12 or 13 nominations. I think we had 14 another year.

"We lost to Galway by a point and we won all the rest of our games fairly comfortably. I did think it was an unusual situation to only give us four nominations and to give other counties much more.

"That's not to say that the girls from Tipperary didn't deserve their nominations. I know people were saying they got nine and we got four but we beat them three times; I'm not saying they didn't deserve their nominations but I just thought, maybe, we should have had more.

"Maybe it's because people aren't going to enough games, I don't know. It was a bit disappointing. Maybe it's because they see that we get so many All-Stars and so many nominations that decided to not give them to us - I don't think that's right either. I do think that we deserve more nominations than the four.

"To be honest, I don't know who picks them, I don't know how they are picked, I don't know what the criteria is.


"It was unusual, but it's our own fault at the end of the day."

Cork exited this year's championship at the semi-final stage. For O'Connor, it was the first time a senior inter-county season did not feature an All-Ireland final. Considering her background is in science, it's no surprise to hear that the defeat was microscopically analysed.

Four-time All-Ireland winner, Cork's Amy O'Connor, who just received an All-Star, is pictured at the announcement that Littlewoods Ireland will renew its sponsorship of the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship, the Littlewoods Ireland Camogie Leagues and the GAA Go Games Provincial Days for three years until 2022. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile


In the vigil of that disappointment, there have also been uplifting moments. This year's All-Star was a first for O'Connor, and her club, St Vincent's.

"I knew that my own team, my junior team, they wanted to see the trophy so I was bringing it up to the club to show the chairman," she explains.

When I arrived there was a guard of honour, a piper, and hundreds and hundreds of people there.

It was unbelievable. No other club in the country would do it for their players. To be fair, it is a big thing. For our club, it was the first ever All-Star, male, female, football, camogie. They are a huge honour and I think they should be celebrated more. So I’m very glad that I’m from a club that’s willing to do that for me.

I always laugh at the kids in my club. Anytime they see me, they get me to sign their hurley. But my name is on their hurley about ten times! It’s lovely. It’s brilliant to see.

When I was growing up, I didn’t have that. I had to look elsewhere, outside of my club. I had to look at the likes of Gemma O’Connor from the Barrs, Orla Cotter from St Catherine’s. But they can now look within their club that it is possible for them to do it if they put in the hours on the pitch.

I said it at the homecoming, that I love my club because it doesn’t matter that I’m a woman. I’m treated exactly as I would be if I was a man.

It’s a really inclusive club – everyone is treated equally. All the men’s teams treat me with the same respect as they would their own. I love that about my club.

Along with being a pioneer for her club, she is also one for her household. The 23-year-old was the first member of her family to attend college. Next month, she will graduate from the Royal College of Surgeons with a Masters in Pharmacy.


Getting to that point was not a clear road. O'Connor, who played international soccer at underage level for Ireland, was advised to study chemistry for the Leaving Cert by one of her team doctors. The problem: the subject was not available at St Vincent's secondary school. She and others successfully campaigned for it the be made an option.

"As far as I know, chemistry is alive and well in my school now, so it set a trend," she says.

"I didn't grow up wanting to be a pharmacist at all. I don't know what I want to be five years down the line either.


"I always have a burning desire to go back and do graduate medicine, I wouldn't rule it out but I don't know if I could put myself through that again. It'd be another four years and an intern year.

"My mam and dad are probably the proudest people ever. They are unbelievable, both of them, never putting pressure on but always pushing to me to do my best.

"They don’t have a GAA background, they don’t have a soccer background, they didn’t go to college themselves but the two of them are very hardworking people.

"I’m lucky, I still live at home so all my washing is done, my dinner is made, so I’m blessed with the two of them."

O'Connor hails from Knocknaheeney, a part of north Cork city with a reputation for anti-social behaviour.

"There was never any pressure put on me to do anything because in my area it’s not really seen as a big deal if you don’t go to college," she says, while also explaining how she stayed away from the type of life - one involving drugs and crime - into which so many from Knocknaheeney fall.

"People will also say ‘Was it sport that kept you away from it?’ and I couldn’t say that I would have went off the straight and narrow if I didn’t have sport because I don’t think I ever would have.

"I’m a very driven person and my Mam and Dad were never involved in anything like that so the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

"It is a problem in my area, there’s no denying that but I’m very lucky that my mam and dad always had me involved in something.

"There’s a terrible reputation attached to Knocknaheeny but by good things like me playing camogie with Cork - Denise O’Sullivan is also from my area, she’s playing soccer at the highest level in America - positive things do come out of our area.

"We’re just going to have to try and work that bit harder to try and get more kids involved and show kids that you can go away and do something.

"You don’t have to be pigeon-holed into this life in Knocknaheeny of this cycle over and over again."

O'Connor's next step will be to look for a job. She doesn't know who her employer will be but she is certain where they will be based.

"I'll never leave Cork. I'll always live in Cork. I've no desire whatsoever to leave so I'll only look for a job in Cork."

Littlewoods Ireland has also launched new social channels for fans to see exclusive GAA content and have access to exclusive GAA competitions. For #StyleOfPlay content and behind the scenes action follow @LWI_GAA on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and blog.littlewoodsireland.ie.

Feature image: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

See Also: Heartbroken Downey Glad To Leave Kilkenny In A Good Place

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