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'I Suppose When You're Winning, People Love To See You Fall. That's Definitely A Motivating Factor'

'I Suppose When You're Winning, People Love To See You Fall. That's Definitely A Motivating Factor'

Just the 16 All-Ireland medals so far for Cork dual star Briege Corkery, and by the end of the month she might well have added two more.

That's not to suggest she'll be slowing time any time soon, however, nor is it a guarantee that the Cloughduv woman will be back next year. But before deciding on her future she has the small matter of two All-Ireland finals to contend with, beginning on Sunday when she and her Cork camogie teammates clash ash with Kilkenny. It's a fixture which, were it to take place in hurling, would reawaken resting passions and hatreds. Corkery views her county's camogie heritage differently:

I suppose when I started back in 2002/2003, it was Tipperary were the big guns - they had won five out of six. Whereas the last couple of years we've played a load of different teams, so...they're all our enemies really!

Ah, we've no real main enemy. Wexford used get the better of us in Croke Park, all right, so we won't be taking anyone for granted and we'll drive on for Sunday.

Inter-county camogie rivalries may be spread across the board, but after Wexford with hurl in hand, Corkery stares down a Dublin footballing outfit which has come perilously close to toppling her legendary Cork side in the two previous finals. She's hardly fazed, having been there so many times before.

The real struggle arises while juggling between two sports, working on the farm and everyday life. Having done so for over a decade, however, adaptation has been key to Corkery's success. Her approach is simple: "Keep it as normal as possible."

That's why she milked 400 cows before driving to Limerick and kicking four points during Cork's All-Ireland semi-final win over Monaghan last weekend. But while Corkery views normality as an asset, she's more than aware of the physical toll that dual-starring can take, particularly after doing so for so long.

Hence her impending decision at the start of next year as to whether she should continue pushing for a season that could bring with it her 20th All-Ireland medal:

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Some day you might take one night off of football or one night off camogie. I definitely think as I get older I need the odd night off all right. If you're tired, you just try to take a session off, but we go to as many as we can to be fair.

I don't know how many years I have left in me! Certainly this year anyway, I'm committed fully until January. And I'd never make a decision until January or February as to whether I'm coming back or not, you know? But while you're there, you make it your business to be there.

What strikes as remarkable is that she remains so focused and dedicated to two sports in which she has already won enough national championships to make the casual fan repeat 'sixteen?' in question form. There's something slightly Corkonian about what she cites, after some thought, as her chief source of motivation.

I suppose when you're winning, people love to see you fall. That's definitely another motivating factor. Maybe that's all it is.

Last year's ladies football final broke the attendance record for a female sporting event in Europe in 2015, with 31,083 people taking to Croke Park to witness Cork's victory over Dublin. The record had previously been held by the women's FA Cup final between Chelsea and Notts County.

It seems likely that both Sunday's audience and that of Sunday the 25th for this year's football final will both eclipse those of last season. Corkery acknowledges the efforts made by the players and GAA personnel to promote both sports, but she also maintains that both sports are ultimately about a ball, with everything else remaining secondary. And yet that core aspect, too, has improved greatly since she began her career.

To be honest, I don't take much notice of crowds. It'd definitely be phenomenal to play in Croke Park with a full house - a phenomenal experience. But at the same time, it doesn't really bother me. I'm just playing because I love playing, and I suppose I love the competition.

But in the last couple of years, things have changed, too. There have been way bigger attendances at quarter-finals and semi-finals, and I think that's down to the standard of football that's out there. The standard has been phenomenal for the last 10 or 11 years.

Even since I started out, the training and the tactics... They all act like professional people, and I think the professionalism of it and the standard draws the crowds. And you also have the GAA who have put huge work into raising the profile of ladies football, and camogie's attendance was up as well last year from 13,000 to 17,000. So that's a huge jump, and you'd hope it keeps rising.

You'd imagine it will, beginning this Sunday in Croke Park, but those who opt not to attend may be missing one of their final opportunities to witness a 16-time All-Ireland champion, 15-time All Star, and genuine legend of Gaelic games in action.

Gavan Casey
Article written by
Former handwriting champion. Was violently bitten by a pelican at Fota Wildlife Park in 2001.

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