After 12 years, 4 All-Ireland titles and 4 All-Stars Anna Geary reflects on her time at inter-county Camogie and what the future holds…
I firmly believed that the benefits you got from playing with your county far exceeded anything you had to forgo.
So here I am, writing a piece about my Cork Camogie career in the past tense. It feels strange, but while I now say “I was the Cork Senior Camogie Captain”, I am still so proud to have worn the Cork jersey for over a decade. That will never change!
When people talk about an intercounty career, often they refer to the sacrifice and commitment of each player. This is true to an extent - you build your life around your commitment to your sport and team. But in the words of the famous Cork Ladies Football Manager Eamonn Ryan, it’s a lifestyle choice. Every year that I lined out in the red and white, I firmly believed that the benefits you got from playing with your county far exceeded anything you had to forgo. You have to think like that if you want to succeed at the top level.
There are so many great memories I have from my career with Cork. 2003 was the year I was Cork U-16 Captain of three successive All-Ireland titles. That summer I joined my heroes on the Cork Senior squad. 2004 was the summer of my Championship debut. 2005, the year I won my first All Ireland and All Star at wing back. 2013, the year I had the honour of Cork Captain bestowed upon me. 2014, the year a dream came true as I lifted the O’Duffy Cup in Croke Park. As I said, many great memories.
These were my teammates but are now my friends.
But my greatest memories extend beyond the boundaries of medals and titles. I got to watch one of my best friends Joanne O’Callaghan lift the cup in 2006 and then I followed in her footsteps 8 years later, except this time playing alongside her as Cork’s number 2 and number 3. Who knew I would also follow in her retirement footsteps this year. The team holidays down through the years, the training weekends away in Red Barn, and the hen parties - these were where the bond between players was strengthened. These were my teammates but are now my friends.
There are big adjustments in my life this year. My ‘reign’ as the Cork Rose of Tralee is coming to an end this month. My only regret is that I can’t do it all over again. Yes, it was a busy 2014 and I had to manage my time like I have never done before. But it was a choice. To become the Cork Rose and go to Tralee representing my family, Milford and Cork was a dream for many years. In many ways it was a similar dream to captaining Cork to an All-Ireland. Both bring tremendous pride to your family, friends and community; both The Rose of Tralee and camogie are steeped in Irish heritage and both showcase the greatness of what it is to be Irish. We are in the process of looking for the 2015 Cork Rose now. I will be there to mentor and support her up to the Festival in Tralee and I plan on reliving my rose experience through her!
We have so many role models all our youth, boys and girls, can identify with. Sport transcends gender.
‘Women in Sport’ is a phrase gaining momentum. The likes of Liberty Insurance have helped significantly raise the profile of camogie by sponsoring the Camogie and Hurling Championships simultaneously. They believe in our game, they believe in the product that we sell. We, as players, have a responsibility to follow their example and believe in our game too. Through the WGPA there is now a platform to voice our opinions, to tell our stories, to expect more for ourselves as players and for the profile of the game. Media coverage is increasing but we can still push for greater levels of coverage. We, as players, need to be the driving force behind this. When you look at the tremendous female athletes in our country - the Irish Women’s Rugby team, Katie Taylor, Derval O’Rourke, the Glanmire Basketball Team, the Cork Ladies Football Team - we have so many role models all our youth, boys and girls, can identify with. Sport transcends gender.
Championship - I love that word. It sets my mind racing and my blood pumping. I look ahead to the 2015 Championship with a smile on my face, yet a tear in my eye. This year’s Championship is wide open. Tipperary made Cork work all the way to the end to retain their Munster title, while Offaly beat Wexford in the Leinster Championship. Galway won the National League, while Kilkenny will be looking to get back to winning ways and retain their Leinster title. It’s hard to make predictions this early in the season as the league will only give so much of an insight into a team’s progress and form. But right now I can’t look beyond my former teammates. They have a drive and ambition in them to succeed again this year. And I will be willing them on every step of the way.
I have to follow my dreams to see if I can forge a career out of them. If your dreams don’t scare you, then they are not big enough!
So what’s next? Camogie is and always will be a part of who I am. I am still training with my club Milford as we look to defend our Senior County and Munster titles. I am engaged in some media work to help promote camogie and I am an executive member of the WGPA - a body set up to better the player experience both on and off the field. I have left my job to explore new opportunities. I am doing some writing and could potentially be doing some work in radio and broadcasting. I completed a Post Grad in PR and Communications a few years ago so this is an area for exploration too. I am currently studying (part time) to complete a Business and Life Coaching Diploma. It is a career in which I have always had interest and hope to tie it in with my love of sport and business in the future. It is an exciting time - scary, but exciting. I have to follow my dreams to see if I can forge a career out of them. If your dreams don’t scare you, then they are not big enough!