IT’S 14 years since Briege Corkery was first part of the Cork senior camogie and much has changed, but some things have remained constant.
Back then, her debut year was marked with an All-Ireland win, followed by another victory in 2006, and Cork’s victories have come in pairs since then – 2008 and ’09, 2014 and ’15, 2017 and ’18.
The Cloughduv star was absent for the penultimate one of those wins, however, as she was pregnant with Tadhg, who was born at the end of March. By the end of May, she was back training with football side St Val’s – she played in goal to take it easy – and when Paudie Murray came calling with an invitation to return to the Cork panel, she was happy to accept.
Bar a brief cameo in the All-Ireland semi-final win over Tipperary, though, she was largely a spectator as Cork went back-to-back and it is that sense of wanting to be involved which has brought her back again.
The Rebels begin their 2019 campaign on Sunday with a national league opener away to Tipperary with Corkery keen to make an impact.
‘It’s nice to be back,’ she says, ‘especially at the start of the year.
‘I’ve a lot of work to do to break back on to the team but it’s a nice old challenge.
‘Coming back last year was as much of a surprise to me as anyone else, Paudie had been on to me and I said I’d go back and see how I’d do.
‘Maybe if I’d got ten minutes in the final, it might have killed the itch, the fact I’d played, but I came on for three minutes in the semi and dropped my hurley, that was the extent of my contribution.
‘From a competitive point of view, it wasn’t a fulfilling year and it was a bit too short, so I wanted to go again. I’d never regret coming back, but I would regret not going back.’
Obviously, the new addition means an extra level of responsibility off the field for Briege, but Tadhg’s arrival hasn’t impinged on her ability to play.
‘He’s quiet enough most of the time, that’s number one,’ she says.
‘Number two, I’m really lucky to have a great family around me to help out and I’ve two nephews to mind him on the sideline if I have to bring to training with me.
‘Obviously, there’s great support from my husband Diarmuid [Ó Scanaill, who plays with Naomh Abán] and his family and my family.’
The touch took a while to come back, too.
‘The first month and a half was torture, pure hard work,’ Briege says.
‘I was way off the pace, but the rest of the girls were very encouraging.
‘My hurling is never that great, to be honest, but I plugged away, I went to the ball alley by myself and trained with Cloughduv on nights Cork weren’t training. It all added up.
‘Paudie felt I wasn’t ready for the final, which is fair enough, but that’s given me the edge to come back this year.’
Cork will be chasing a three in a row this year. It’s not just in Corkery’s time that they’ve been limited to pairs – not since the four in a row of 1970-73 has it been done, with back-to-back achieved in 1982 and ’83, 1992 and ’93 and 1997 and ’98 before her career started.
‘The last few times, it’s something we’ve tried to put in the back of our minds but it’s always there,’ she says.
‘Only Wexford and Tipp have done it since the game went 15-a-side, so it would be a big achievement but it’s a long way off too.
‘There is a real maturity within the group, since I’ve come back I’ve noticed the likes of Laura Treacy, Orla Cronin and Chloe Sigerson have become real leaders.
‘I almost feel like a young player looking up to them now!’
However, while she is back playing camogie, she won’t be resuming her Cork football career, despite an outing with Munster as they won the interprovincial championship in November.
‘I just wouldn’t have the time,’ she says.
‘The interpros were handy as I’d had a short year and I’d be quite lazy during the winter so I felt what was the harm in playing a football match.
‘I thoroughly enjoyed it but it was only for a laugh, not that that’s intended to belittle the competition. I hadn’t played to that standard in a long time and it showed!’