‘When little girls see that women are now treated as equal as men, that’s phenomenal’

Amy O’Connor pleased by news of increased grants allocation for camogie

Camogie has been like a soap opera recently. The game breathed a sigh of relief this week when a poll of clubs indicated a narrow majority in favour of overturning the proposed calendar for this season with its club fixtures sandwiched between league and championship.

That averted the threats of strike action from county players but it was a close-run thing and drowned out the good news for women Gaelic athletes at the start of the week that the Government had decided to put their grants allocation on the same level as male inter-county counterparts.

Cork captain, Amy O’Connor, speaking at the launch of the Littlewoods Ireland Camogie Leagues this weekend, restated her team’s intention not to play had the season not been changed.

“In Cork, we made our position very clear on the whole thing throughout the media the last couple of days and week. Other panels, I’m not sure. I know the sentiment was strong but other counties preferred to keep it a bit quieter.”


She was delighted with the government decision even if events conspired to distract from it.

“The grants announcement has been unbelievable. I think it went under the radar slightly just because of different things going on in the media this week. It was absolutely unbelievable – it can only benefit ladies football and camogie players. And women’s sport in general. When little girls see that women are now treated as equal as men, that’s phenomenal. It’s brilliant to see. We’re absolutely thrilled with it.”

‘Very expensive hobby’

Earlier this year, Dublin’s Ali Twomey had referred to the disparity between the men’s and women’s games. “It is a very expensive hobby and when you compare it to the lads, it is very disheartening.”

Speaking of disheartening, Littlewoods have conducted a survey, which showed that nearly 90 per cent of the population could not name a current intercounty camogie player.

“While I was shocked,” said O’Connor of the finding, “I wasn’t shocked at the same time. When you’re in the camogie bubble it’s something that you can’t even fathom, that someone can’t even recognise a camogie player.

“It’s a phenomenal stat that 89 per cent of the Irish population can’t pick out a senior inter-county camogie player – like Jesus, that’s unbelievable. I’d say 100 per cent of the population could pick out a male inter-county footballer or hurler. So that is disappointing.”

In terms of profile, lockdown has had a positive if unintended impact. The live streaming of matches brought the game to a wider audience. She mentions this in the context of any potential return of crowds and as a qualified pharmacist is wary of moving too quickly.

“To be honest I’d err on the side of caution. It’s all dependent on Nphet guidelines and Government guidelines and I think it’s important we all stick to them. We’ve done it for this long. We just need to hold firm a bit longer and if that means no-one can go to a game during the summer the option is there to livestream the games.

“As I said, more people watched camogie last year than ever before because there were more people watching the live stream than were actually going to games previously so it was a positive thing last year. More people were exposed to camogie. So, if it’s not safe don’t rush it. Stick to the guidelines.”

Lost players

Cork were narrowly defeated in last November’s All-Ireland semi-final by eventual champions Kilkenny. This year they’ve lost three players, one, Gemma O’Connor to retirement and two, Julia White and Pamela Mackey, who have stepped away for the season.

A post-graduate in pharmacy, she is 18 months into a paradigm shift in her career although she has volunteered to be a part of the vaccine roll-out as soon as the call comes.

“After I qualified I worked as a locum pharmacist for a couple of months and then got offered a job in a technology company so I’m not working in pharmacy any more. I’m signed up to do the vaccinations and stuff like that but my work is now totally different, which is totally random but I took the leap and I’m there a year and a half, working as a project manager with Workvivo, a software company in Cork and things are going well.”