KATE Wall could give her older brother Jamie a run for his money when it comes to interviews.
He’s well able to talk, but so is Kate. She insists that he’s more articulate but 20 minutes into this chat, it’s as engaging as the first minute.
She’s passionate about camogie. It’s been a part of her life for as long as she can remember.
‘I’ve been playing camogie since I was three years of age,’ Kate says.
‘It’s a massive part of my life and who I am, it’s part of my identity in a load of ways.
‘I wouldn’t be allowed in the door at home if I wasn’t playing,’ she jokes.
Her father, Michael, a Tipperary man, knows hurling inside out and back to front. So too does Jamie whose hurling CV is impressive – he played minor and U21 with Cork, has coached Mary I to Fitzgibbon Cup success, coached the Cork U16s and is the current manager of the Kilbrittain intermediate hurlers. There’s also Kate’s twin brother, Philip, who lines out with Kilbrittain at home.
That’s a wealth of knowledge to lean on when needed and Kate avails of it when she can. Jamie’s not known for keeping his opinions to himself, she jokes.
‘Dad and Jamie, they would be two people who I’d turn to for advice,’ the Cork intermediate forward says.
‘If I was watching a game, Jamie would tell me watch this, watch that, watch why the centre forward makes this run, tell me where they should be running to. It’s even about wanting it and desire, about dying on a ball in a match and how you should act like every ball is your last ball.’
They are strong influences on Kate, but she is very much her own woman too.
The 20-year-old is in her third year on the Cork intermediate camogie team. In her first season, 2018, she won an All-Ireland title, and that’s the target again this year.
She’s been involved on Cork teams since fifth class in national school and has come up through the ranks, from U14 to U16 to minor, reaching the All-Ireland semi-final in her last year as minor and she started all that campaign at centre forward.
Then came the call-up to the intermediate panel.
‘That was a huge deal,’ Kate explains.
‘When I got the break into the intermediate team I was delighted because I got my foot in the door.
‘It was a great experience to be training with women. I had never played with likes of Niamh Ní Chaoimh, Sarah Harrington and Leah Weste. In and out of the dressing-room they showed you how to prepare for matches, how to train, how to eat properly.’
Kate points out another big difference between minor and intermediate: physicality.
‘You go from playing against girls to playing against women and that’s more physical. I found the physicality a step up, that element wasn’t there in minor and it takes time to get used to that.’
Now in her third year at intermediate inter-county level, she knows what it’s all about, has experienced the high of the All-Ireland win in 2018 and the disappointment of last year when a new-look Cork relinquished their title.
Off the back of their 2018 success, Cork had to start last season with a new squad, and Kate was one of the few players who were able to be re-graded.
‘It was a new team so it’s a building process again to get a team together that can win an All-Ireland, to get to know each other and to get that bond – but we came really close last year,’ the Kilbrittain/Timoleague club woman explains.
‘For a new team to be there or thereabouts last year was very encouraging and we want to build on that this season.’
So far this year, in the Littlewoods Ireland Camogie League Division 2, Cork beat Kilkenny (1-11 to 0-12) on the opening weekend and then lost to Meath at home (0-6 to 0-3) in horrible weather conditions. Cork aren’t in action again until a March 8th trip to Kildare and then a home tie against Westmeath.
The league is important, but there’s the bigger picture to keep in mind too.
‘You’d never say no to a national league title. In my first year with the intermediates I won a national league and it meant a lot because it was my first win with the intermediates,’ Kate says.
‘I’d never take the league for granted, but it is all about the championship and it’s about building a team and building a panel that can compete – because we have six championship games in a short space of time during the summer.
‘There are about 54 girls on the training panel at the moment and there is great talent in Cork camogie right now, the minors have won the last two All-Irelands and we have players coming off those teams, the senior county championship has come on leaps and bounds and the standard is high now.
‘There is great ambition in this team, we want to win an All-Ireland, and it is within our reach and within our capability.’
For players on the intermediate panel, they realise this is a stepping stone to the senior set-up. This is their chance to show senior manager Paudie Murray and his management team what they can do.
The dream is to play senior with Cork. That’s what Kate wants too.
‘The intermediate is about developing you as a player and the goal is to play senior,’ she agrees.
‘We share the dressing-room with the senior girls and they are who you look up up. You see Chloe Sigerson outside an hour before training taking frees and that’s who you aspire to be like.
‘That’s the goal for everyone, to play senior. You want to be on that senior panel, you want to be in there. The intermediate is a stepping stone. Look at Linda Collins from Courcey Rovers, she was player of the match in the 2018 All-Ireland intermediate final and then she got called up. She had two years developing as an intermediate player and then she got called up to the senior panel and she’s playing there now.’
A nursing student in Cork, Kate has the summer off from work placement so that’s more time for camogie as the Rebels hope to build on last year’s encouraging performances.
There’s more to come from Kate and this Cork team.