Cork football goalkeeper has won two camogie medals this season
BY GER McCARTHY
MARTINA O’Brien has been one of the bedrocks of Cork ladies’ football success in recent times.
The Ballinascarthy native remains one of the country’s top shot-stoppers but it is her exploits in goal for her club’s camogie squad that have made recent headlines.
O’Brien is part of an emerging Bal team that annexed a county junior B title last September and followed up that success with a recent 2-13 to 0-9 victory over St Colum’s in the West Cork junior camogie decider.
In the year of the rural club’s 50th anniversary, Ballinascarthy has made huge strides with Moira Barrett captaining the Cork minors to All-Ireland success and Caroline Sugrue plus Claire Kingston also impressing at intermediate and U16 inter-county level. Add in a thriving underage structure and O’Brien has every right to be proud of Ballinascarthy camogie’s increased profile.
Ger McCarthy (GMC): I’ve interviewed you many times during your inter-county football career but when did you first start playing camogie and how much do you enjoy the sport?
Martina O’Brien (MOB): Well, the two camogie medals with Ballinascarthy are the only ones I picked up this year so that’s a bonus and means I love the sport even more now! I actually started playing camogie at the age of six and long before I ever got involved with football.
Like every other parent, my mother and father allowed us to try everything, even dancing, you name it. We took to the camogie straight away. I started out with Ballinascarthy and played in goal. I’ve been there since and loved every minute.
GMC: Bal GAA is synonymous with hurling and camogie so it must be pleasing to see such a recent upturn in fortunes for the club’s female representatives?
MOB: In fairness, down through the years, Ballinascarthy has always had some success be it at minor, underage or junior level. I’ve won U16, minor and junior C county medals with Bal but maybe it is because we are such a small, rural club that we haven’t always got the attention for winning those trophies.
We are fortunate that there is such a good community spirit behind the club here in Ballinascarthy. We have also been lucky to have a lot of girls from Bandon and other areas come in and play with us through the years when they didn’t have a camogie club up and running at the time.
None of our successes would have been possible without all the behind the scenes organisation and improvement in the club’s facilities. All our committee members, treasurers, secretaries and trainers have played a huge part in getting Ballinascarthy GAA to where it is today.
GMC: You have been successful of late, playing a big role in helping Bal win a county junior B title. That was an important moment for the team and yourself?
MOB: Absolutely, that win was very important for us. Down through the years, we would have always joked about what was going to happen if we ever became a senior camogie club but reaching that level is an incredibly hard thing to do.
We were junior C for about five or six years before finally winning that and another seven years to win the junior B. It has been a tough seven years as there were times we were doing very well and then other years coming up short. Things finally seemed to click for us in 2018 and we built on a couple of very good underage campaigns.
GMC: Was it a surprise to finally win that county junior B trophy?
MOB: It wasn’t a complete shock, no, because we have always had bags of potential. The likes of Moira Barrett who captained Cork to the All-Ireland minor title this year, Caroline Sugrue who plays with the Cork intermediates and Claire Kingston who captained the county U16 team this year as well. The potential that we have is huge considering all the younger girls coming on to the panel. Having that many Cork players really helped us this year though. It gave us a lot of experience, something we badly needed, and everyone was just delighted to finally win that junior B trophy.
GMC: Where does winning a West Cork junior title rank?
MOB: Well, every West Cork club that can compete in the competition enters a team, irrespective of grades. I presume the likes of Barryroe, Clonakilty, St Colum’s and Kilbrittain have been taking part in it but the competition is still only a couple of years old. It is a trophy worth winning though and it just turned out this year that ourselves (Ballinascarthy) and St Colum’s ended up contesting the final. We were absolutely delighted to win it and winning is a great habit for any team.
GMC: Apart from the obvious, are there any subtle differences in keeping goal for camogie compared to football?
MOB: The two sports and the goalkeeper position complement each other. You are tasked with organising your backs in both codes. Your reactions have to be sharp even though a football is bigger and easier to catch. Concentration levels in camogie have to be ten times more intense. If you take your eye off the ball in camogie, then it is gone from you. Camogie is a far more physical sport too. There are times I have come off the pitch and my hands would be raw from the belts I took. I really enjoy that element of the game though, the physicality of it.
GMC: How confident are you for Ballinascarthy’s prospects in 2019 especially considering the club’s thriving underage structure?
MOB: I think we are lucky to have such a talented bunch of girls coming into the squad. These girls are actively pushing for places on our starting team which is brilliant to see. We formed a great bond over the past year thanks to winning two trophies and that should stand to us in 2019.
We have a core of 15, 16 and 17-year-old girls who represent the future of our club. The taste of success that they have had is motivating them and our other players to kick on next year. We are lucky to have Francis O’Driscoll involved as he trained those girls all the way up so hopefully he will stay involved along with our other trainers and selectors.