THE clocks have turned back. Halloween has come and gone. The dark nights are upon us. The evenings are shorter. It’s now officially winter.
It’s hard to believe another season of Sundays has passed us by in what feels like the fastest year yet in the camogie and ladies’ football calendar.
It’s All-Stars season at the moment, and over the next few weeks the best camogie players and ladies’ footballers from the past season will be recognised for another season that saw Cork win both senior All-Irelands.
The double is complete. What they set out to achieve in early January has been realised and they now sit back, relax and reflect on their admirable season.
Sit back? I apologise. I need to re-phrase that because ‘sitting back’ does not form part of these women’s vocabulary. It remains quite the opposite in fact during their two-month break before a new journey begins again in their quest for more success in 2016.
Briege Corkery, a newlywed-to-be, will be continuing her daily ritual of milking 200-plus cows, and God knows what else will form part of her hectic week.
Rena Buckley, between her busy physiotherapy working life, is studying for her Masters degree.
Orla Cotter, on her midterm break, visited Miami and lived it up, and she had earned this holiday. This, however, was one week off her ritual of going to the gym on a regular basis on top of playing with her club up to just a few weeks ago in the county final against Milford.
I guess the point I am making is that these women never stop. And why should they if it involves experiencing as much activity as possible, fitting in as much as they humanly can to enrich their lives? Why stop?
These women are really living and we could all take a leaf out of their bestselling books.
The girls are probably pining for each other’s company these weeks, and missing the routine of their frequent meetings for training and games. I felt this too. It was unusual and testing to get used to it.
The girls consume so much of your life that the gradual distancing from your normality was strange. The constant WhatsApping and Snapchats are probably in full flow these days between the panels.
And as we draw closer to Christmas – yes, I did utter the word – there undoubtedly will be plenty of reunions. There’s much to celebrate and memories to recall and recollect.
I remain in regular contact with the camogie girls since my retirement. After all, they are some of my best friends.
Speaking to Aoife Murray recently, I asked her what she was up to these days, if she is enjoying having more free time and if is she trying any new interesting ventures. She’s enjoying her social life and simply having the time following the All-Ireland celebration.
Aoife is making up for her dedication to Cork all year but now feels that the novelty of, once again, having a social outlet is wearing off. She needs, and wants, to start training again.
‘I get very social at the weekends but then after about three weekends I start to miss training and I end up back in the gym,’ Aoife said.
Joining back with the gym is usually a typical starting point for her at this time of the year but the urge to try something new during the winter months also draws her in.
‘Last year it was swimming lessons. This year I’m trying to take up squash,’ she revealed.
You would think that words like ‘holiday’, a ‘break’, ‘rest’ and ‘relaxation’ would come to mind for a successful inter-county player following an epic season, but the reality is that many girls don’t get this opportunity because work now becomes their main priority. It’s their reality.
For Aoife, working in Dublin as a real estate asset manager not only means she has to clock up many miles for training and matches in Cork, she also has to juggle a heavy working schedule and has to sacrifice holidays to catch up with work missed following a hefty camogie season. This really struck a chord with me. Her commitment to Cork was truly remarkable and she has done this for many years.
Valerie Mulcahy, now a ten-time senior football All-Ireland winner with Cork, admits that she is ‘addicted to exercise’, so she doesn’t tend to do ‘nothing’ when the season stops.
For her, coming into pre-season unfit is not a choice as you get older.
The body isn’t as kind if you let it get out of shape. It’s not a choice but it’s something she has to do in order to come back every year.
I don’t think there are many inter-county players who stop for months during the winter ‘off season’. It’s a risk. Not only from the reducing injury perspective, but also on the self confidence front.
Nobody wants to return to pre-season training unfit. Undergoing some form of fitness test like the yo-yo or beep tests and witnessing other teammates scoring above and beyond what your unfit and loose body can achieve is not a good idea.
It is always a worry, a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach – how will I get on when training begins once again? Will I survive?
As the years have passed I can now see more and more sportswomen going to the gym, taking classes, running in 5km and 10km runs to keep their built-up residual fitness at an appropriate level.
Maybe it’s the PE teacher in me, but I find it very difficult to sit in on winter nights.
Even when I played with Cork, being idle in the evenings post championship season was strange and unsettling. Tiredness and fatigue would set in and feelings of being sluggish annoyed me. It didn’t last for long!
My husband, Paul, rarely sees me during the week. It’s because I’m out and about doing yoga, four-a-side basketball, going to the gym, training teams or going for a run.
Is it an obsession, you ask? Perhaps, but life would be incomplete without it. For me, and for many others I haven’t mentioned in this article, it’s food for the mind, body and soul.