MARTINA O’Brien has made her name as one of the best football goalkeepers in the country – but she has never hidden her love for camogie.
In the weeks ahead she will divide her time between football commitments with West Cork (senior) and Clonakilty (intermediate) as well as the Ballinascarthy junior camogie team that campaigns at junior A level.
The current distinction between club and inter-county seasons means the Bal woman has more time than normal for camogie – and she’s loving it.
‘I would always have said that I enjoyed playing camogie over football when I was growing up – but obviously it’s football that I play more of now,’ the Cork football shot-stopper told the Star Sport Podcast.
‘I don’t make enough camogie trainings from year to year, that’s probably due to my football commitments but when I am there I really enjoy it. ‘
‘I try to get more in every year but it gets harder and harder to make that commitment to it. In fairness to Bal they have been amazing, I might miss a few trainings, but they tell me come when I can, there is never any pressure on me and they have been really supportive.’
Ballinascarthy will take on Ballinhassig in the first round of the Cork Junior A camogie championship in the weeks ahead and it’s another chance for the Carbery club to show how far they have come in recent seasons. In 2018 Bal beat Bride Rovers in the county junior B final and O’Brien is confident that they will continue to rise through the ranks.
‘In the last ten years we have gone from junior C to junior B to junior A, and we have a very good underage set-up too. For a small club we’re doing really well. We are probably at a grade now where we can really compete,’ O’Brien explained.
‘I have won two county junior medals with Bal and there are not a lot of people that can say they have won that with their club. They are medals that I really cherish and am proud of because I started out playing GAA with Bal and it’s a team that I will always go back to. If I have no commitments with Cork, camogie is always the first thing that I love to go back and play.
‘The club has been so supportive and we also have a lot of girls who are coming on with different grades with Cork as well so our club is doing very well for a small little village. We are producing some fine camogie players and we can build on that for the future. We are aiming to get to intermediate and that will probably take a couple of years, but we will be there or thereabouts this season.’
With the inter-county season nudged further down the road this year, it’s allowed O’Brien time to focus on club activity these past few weeks – and she’s loving it.
‘I have been playing with Cork nearly ten years and I haven’t had a lot of time to be with the club, and that’s with work too and other commitments that I would have,’ she explained.
‘I wouldn’t have been making a lot of club stuff in the last couple of years, and being with club camogie and football and then with West Cork on top of that, a lot of time is spent trying to get to one session every now and then. But definitely, this time it’s been fantastic.
‘Before you see the girls every so often and you catch up but in the last few weeks it’s back to like when I was a teenager and playing with the girls I grew up with. It’s great to get that time and not be worried that I can’t do a full session one night because I have a match tomorrow. I’m doing everything and I am really enjoying it.’
For the Cork star, the time away from training and matches during the recent lockdown has made her miss one element of the GAA more than most – the social interaction. Now that she can get to more club training sessions, she’s enjoying it as much now as she did when she was young.
‘It’s not until this happened that I realised how much I missed playing, and it was the social aspect more than anything. If you are playing inter-county it’s all about pushing yourself and the competitiveness, but what I missed the most was the social interaction with everybody,’ O’Brien explained.
‘You’d miss how your team-mates would boost your mood week on week when you’re meeting them, the stories that people have, how it can change your day from being a bad day to a good day. We had WhatsApp groups and had a laugh there but it’s different and I think that social interaction is a big thing – that’s what you miss. It’s not the games and the competitiveness, but it’s the people because it’s the people that make it.’