FEW secondary school students get to experience the joys of leading their county to an All-Ireland success, let alone playing an integral role in aiding their club’s annexing of a county junior B title in the same calendar year.
Yet both those two accolades belong to Cork and Ballinascarthy’s Moira Barrett.
The Bandon Grammar student scored 0-3 in Cork’s 0-18 to 1-11 All-Ireland win over Galway, becoming the county’s first captain to lift the minor A trophy since 2006.
Add to that, Cork Camogie junior B championship success with her local club and Moira has every reason to look back on 2018 as a memorable year.
Living in Lyre with parents Con and Mary, brother Eamonn and twin-sisters Anne and Maggie, the youngest of the Barrett siblings has had to deal with a huge amount of time management for someone so young.
How difficult is it for an 18-year-old inter-county player considering all the school, work, club and county commitments, not to mention hundreds of miles in the family car?
‘It can be really, really tough,’ Moira admitted.
‘You have commitments pretty much every day of the week. I’m one of the lucky ones when it comes to school in that Bandon Grammar is a boarding school so I stay on in the library and complete my homework. I can also have my dinner in the school around 5.30pm before my Mum picks me up in Bandon on the way to Cork for training.
‘It does make for very long evenings. My teachers expect me to have everything (homework and assignments) done though. It is expected that you can manage the workload but there are times that it can become a bit too much with so much going on. Sometimes you have to take a step back, not from sport but just a step back to clear your head.
‘With so many demands it is all about finding a way to manage your time but it has to be your own way as well. I was extremely lucky during the summer months in that the Clonakilty Park Hotel management – where I work – were incredibly helpful.
‘They were very understanding and allowed me to schedule my work around my other commitments. My teachers were equally helpful in that they would be tipped off when I had a lot going on and were always supportive. I definitely needed all that help.’
The two most striking aspects of Moira’s character become immediately obvious when interviewing the Cork minor captain. Her passion for her chosen sport is as impressive as her maturity when it comes to discussing the merits of sacrificing so much of her free time.
So, is putting in all that effort – even though it delivered an All-Ireland medal – sustainable and does she worry it could it yet take its toll?
‘I would agree that things are intense for someone like myself at such a young age,’ Moira concurred.
‘I have been training four days a week since second year and that can be hard going sometimes. It is fine though once you find your balance, once you know what you can and can’t manage and you are not putting yourself under too much pressure.
‘Obviously, any player worries about picking up injuries but that’s all part of the game. I was on crutches at the start of this season when I first met the Cork minor manager Jerry Wallace. I didn’t know how long I was going to be out and only came back a month before the All-Ireland championship. Those few weeks watching training and thinking I might not be able to be involved were really scary.’
Another endorsement of Moira’s maturity and burgeoning talent was when the Bandon Grammar student was offered the captaincy of her county by Cork minor selectors manager Jerry Wallace (Midleton) and selectors Michael Walsh (Midleton) and Mike Boland (Carrigtwohill). Although unexpected, the responsibility sat easily on her shoulders.
‘I did not expect the captaincy at all,’ the rising Ballinascarthy star commented.
‘The minor club championship hadn’t been completed so there was no one to nominate. I remember shaking when I got the phone call because I genuinely could not believe it. I had no idea what was going on!
‘It wasn’t any added pressure because there were so many strong individuals and leaders already on the Cork team. Motivating people was never needed because all of the players are self-motivated anyway.
‘Most people were shocked to hear that I was captain but I was a huge honour and something I never expected. To me, it was a huge thing as I never expected it.
‘There were a lot of girls promoted onto that panel from the previous year’s U16 squad but I had to go for a trial. I managed to get on the U17 squad and came on in most of our matches before starting most of our Munster championship games. This year, winning the All-Ireland minor, there was more continuity as it was the majority of last year’s 17s squad involved plus a few new players as well.
‘It was incredibly important for me to have the two Newcestown girls, Aisling O’Donovan and Ciara O’Sullivan, with me in the Cork set-up. Not alone for splitting the long spins but just having someone to have the chats with.
‘It was good to have not just team-mates but friends to talk to about something that might have gone wrong in training or a game.
‘Having friends going through the same experiences as you made a lot of long roads less lonely.’
Moira has overcome her fears, dealing with long journeys, injuries and managing her time better than individuals twice her age. Ballinascarthy and Cork camogie have a player to build their respective futures around.