Cork camogie star Laura Tracey chats to Kieran McCarthy about the game that made her change to agency nursing
LAURA Treacy was exhausted.
A nurse in the Mercy University Hospital, she’d just come off her third night shift on the bounce, managed to squeeze in two hours of sleep and was now going full throttle in Cork’s 2018 national league opener against Galway at Castle Road.
It was hard enough to stay awake let alone play an inter-county game.
It was torture.
The Cork defender was marking Galway’s Ailish O’Reilly, and they’d know each other from All-Star trips. O’Reilly took on the extra role of agony aunt that January Sunday.
‘I was discussing with Ailish during the game that this wasn’t going to happen any more, that I couldn’t keep going like this,’ Treacy says.
‘That game was on a Sunday. I had been on nights (12-hour shifts that started at 8pm) the Thursday night, Friday night and Saturday night, and our game was at two o’clock on the Sunday. I came off the Saturday night shift at eight o’clock on the Sunday morning, had some breakfast, went to bed around half eight for two hours and then up for a team meeting at about 12ish, and then played the game.
‘I was exhausted. I got through the match and then went into nights again on Sunday night.’
The Killeagh woman knew that she was never going to get the best out of herself that way. She was already missing training sessions and the fear was that she would be left behind for the year if it kept going like this.
She’d won her first All-Star award the previous November, named left corner back on the camogie team of the year after playing her role in Cork’s All-Ireland senior triumph. But instead of building on that, she felt she was stalling.
‘I was working 12-hour shifts in the Mercy from September 2017 to April 2018. It meant I was missing training on Friday nights as usually you’re not done until eight o’clock and training is usually around seven,’ Treacy explains.
‘I’d have to go and do my own session with our strength and conditioning coach Martin O’Brien, maybe the day before, or before I went into work or maybe the following day, just to keep up.
‘I hated training on my own.’
She knew she needed to change, otherwise she’d be left behind.
‘Over the next few weeks and months after the Galway game, I was weighing up my options to see what I could do. I spoke to a lot of people and I ended up going agency nursing from April – it was the best option for my career and to allow me play camogie,’ the Cork defender explains.
That decision has allowed her take control of both her work and camogie commitments.
‘I’m able to pick my own days now that suit me around camogie. It’s ideal and it’s working for me at the moment,’ she says.
‘Switching to agency nursing has allowed me, for example, to finish at six so I can make seven o’clock training. I don’t put myself down for shifts on match days so there is no clash.
‘I could be working anywhere; in a surgery, in a clinic, anywhere. It just suits me at the moment while I play camogie.
‘I can sit down and organise my shifts for the month. I get my timetable for Cork training for the month and I can revolve everything around that then.
‘This has allowed me to work as a nurse and still play.’
Finding the right balance between work and camogie, Treacy went on to have a stellar championship in the Cork defence, and after the county defended their All-Ireland crown, she was shortlisted again for an All-Star.
Ahead of this Sunday’s trip to Galway to take on the home side in their final Division 1 Group 2 game of the camogie league, Treacy is off both Saturday and Sunday, and will work a half day on Monday so she can fit in a recovery session that evening. It’s a long way from the last time these two counties met in the league – but she’s expecting Cork’s toughest game of the season so far.
Both counties are already through to the knockout stages and both have a 100 per cent record after the opening three rounds, so it’s the ideal early-season indicator for Cork who want to top the group.
‘This will be a massive battle,’ Treacy says.
‘We haven’t travelled to Galway since 2015, they have a serious set up and have been beaten teams by big scores this year. It’s a huge test.
‘We will have to bring a lot of character to the game. We have already qualified but we want to top the group – and we will be disappointed if we don’t come out of Galway with a win.’
It’s that attitude that helps explain what drives this Cork team that is chasing three All-Irelands in a row. Manager Paudie Murray and his management team have set the highest of standards.
‘We can’t be how we were last year, we need to be a better version of ourselves,’ Treacy points out.
‘It’s driven from the management team – the professionalism they bring is second to none. If we win but don’t play well, our heads will be down and we will be critical of ourselves, saying that we could have done this better or done more of that. We expect a lot out of ourselves. We always want to be better. We are perfectionists. We want to hit the highest of our capabilities.
‘We do a lot of things really very well in games and we see that too – but we always want to improve.
‘We are always reminded that we need to step it up. The way we played in 2018 won’t win us an All-Ireland in 2019 because teams are trying to catch up. There is nothing between us and Kilkenny so we need to step it up a notch.’
Helping to drive the 2019 challenge, Treacy says, is the ongoing battle for places. Paudie Murray is building a formidable panel. Courcey Rovers’ Saoirse McCarthy, a minor last season, scored 1-1 in the recent league win against Waterford, Ciara McCarthy started her first game in midfield in the same match while Laura Hayes, another 2018 minor, has featured in the opening games too.
‘No one’s place is safe,’ Treacy says.
‘These girls are coming through and they’re keen to make their mark. Sarah Hayes has played the last two league games and she’s done super. It’s keeping everyone on their toes.
‘The youth, the speed and the determination that they are bringing from minor is great for the panel.’
But first, it’s Galway on Sunday.
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