By Ger McCarthy
CORK ladies dual star Briege Corkery believes the arrival of new manager Ephie Fitzgerald coupled with a love of the GAA is enough motivation to continue representing her county at senior level.
Corkery plus fellow inter-county stars Martina O’Brien (football) and Hazel O’Regan (camogie) – who both play for Clonakilty GAA – were in Ahamilla Complex to present new Kukri tops to the West Cork clubs’ adult and underage teams last Saturday evening.
A huge crowd was in attendance as Clonakilty’s football and camogie clubs came together for a launch night presided over by chairperson of the ladies football club Yvonne Ryan and chairman of Clonakilty camogie club Paudie O’Donovan.
Corkery, O’Brien and O’Regan proved popular selfie targets on an evening the club’s U16 footballers plus inter-county representatives were also honoured for recent achievements.
Never one to court the limelight, Corkery admitted it is difficult to fully appreciate the positive effect that she and her fellow Cork inter-county squad members have on up-and-coming camogie and football youngsters.
‘I never think of myself as a role model and just try my best to do what I can but it is something I find hard to believe at times that we (Cork players) are having such a positive effect on young GAA players,’ admitted the holder of 16 All-Ireland medals.
‘We spend all our time training, preparing for matches, trying to win All-Irelands and chasing our own personal goals. So it is actually lovely to think that young people take on board what we are trying to achieve, even though we rarely have enough time to stop and fully appreciate it.
‘I had the pleasure of visiting a lot of the local schools near home with the All-Ireland trophies recently and was taken aback at the number of young boys who approached myself and Marie Ambrose. The lads demanded to have a kick-around with us so it is refreshing to think Cork ladies footballers and camogie players are now being appreciated by not just young girls but the boys as well.’
Ahead of the 2016 All-Ireland football championship, Eamonn Ryan’s departure coupled with Ephie Fitzgerald’s arrival as new ladies manager has changed the back-room dynamic of Cork’s dressing room.
Corkery admits that she and her team-mates are still coming to terms with Ryan’s absence but appreciates the fact Fitzgerald’s arrival means every squad member has to step up their performances to impress the new manager.
‘The most important thing with Ephie coming in as our new manager is that everyone wants to impress him and that can only be good for the squad,’ Corkery said.
‘All the girls, especially the older ones, have to step it up now again this year with a new manager on board. Obviously, we miss Eamonn something fierce as he was such a father-figure to us. We miss him but are equally delighted to have someone of Ephie’s calibre joining us.
‘You can see the success that he has had winning All-Irelands in the past and the big thing, for me, is that he stepped down from the Waterford men’s team to manage us. That’s a big risk to take even though we have won so much in recent years. The fact he has said it is a privilege to take over the ladies team is also good to hear.
‘Ephie has brought in James Masters as well who has been brilliant and it shows the respect Ephie and James have for Cork ladies football that they are willing to give so much commitment to us for the coming year.’
Having won an astonishing 16 All-Ireland titles and 15 All-Stars during a glittering career, what is Corkery’s motivation to keep returning to the training pitch and give up all her spare time to represent club and county?
‘I suppose I simply love GAA and just the thrill of competing,’ Corkery answered.
‘There is a great camaraderie amongst the squad and if a lot of your friends weren’t involved it would be a reason to possibly not keep coming back. You also get to make new friends every year which is equally important.
‘I am a very competitive person and don’t like being beaten at anything which is also something, that drive you need within you to keep going at the highest level. I enjoy the competiveness but also the craic we have which is just as important and am looking forward to the remainder of the league campaign and this year’s All-Ireland championship.’