Category: Ger Kinane Column

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Camogie players deserve better treatment: Laura Treacy interview

It’s Wednesday night when I get to enjoy a great chat with Cork defender Laura Treacy. She’s just in the door from Killeagh Camogie training where she was down showing her face and meeting all the club mates and mentors. The previous night she was back Cork training after being out injured with a shoulder ligament and some nerve damage. ‘Apparently it happened in the recent league final defeat to Kilkenny. I don’t recall anything happening but I have looked back over footage of the game and I got tripped at one stage coming out with the ball and fell on my shoulder. So it must have happened there. I have been getting a lot of physio and doing my own rehab.’

Laura’s journey to becoming one of the best defenders in the game began as an enthusiastic kid taking part in the GAA Cul Camps on summer days in her home cub Killeagh. Gemma O’Connor a Cork Camogie Star by then would often arrive as a guest coach. A young Laura was in her element.  The GAA Cul Camps were the highlight of her summers. She was lucky to have lots of role models and heroes growing up in Killeagh a small village in East Cork with 2 shops, 2 pubs and most importantly the GAA field. There was Cork hurling heroes Joe Deane and Mark Landers and camogie legend and dual star Mary O’Connor. Laura reflects on the fact that now she’s the role model for kids.

‘It’s weird because now I’m down coaching in the Cul Camps and talking to the kids. They look up to me even though I feel I haven’t changed that much since I was 16 and trying to improve. I’m still trying to set new standards and do better, I still go out pucking the ball off the wall every chance I get and I still feel privileged to be playing alongside Gemma O’Connor and Aoife Murray, players I looked up to when I was younger’.

But a lot has changed since Laura was a kid in Cul Camps or even a 16 year old starting off on the Cork minor team. She’s now the holder of 3 senior all-Ireland medals from 2014, 2015 and 2017 and an All-Star picked up last year. In 2012 she was full back on the Cork minor team. Their championship had finished: ‘I remember sitting my 5th year summer exams when the phone call came from Paudie Murray inviting me into the Cork senior panel’. That year Cork reached the All-Ireland final and Laura believes, to this day, being on the panel for an All-Ireland prepared her for when her turn came in 2014 to step out onto the field and play in her first final.

‘I think if I hadn’t been there in 2012 and got a chance to experience Croke Park on All-Ireland final day I wouldn’t have been ready in 2014. I knew what to expect in 2014 and the occasion didn’t get to me because I had the experience of 2012’. No doubt that was Paudie Murray’s plan all along. He saw the potential in Laura and knew in a few short years she would break into the side. 2014 was the year Laura nailed down a corner back spot. Then when Anna Geary retired she took over the full back spot and ‘has being more or less there since however it depends on who we’re playing as different players are deployed to do man marking jobs on various opponents’.

This leads me to the question of who is the hardest player she ever had to mark. ’Every player brings their own challenges. In 2014 it was Ursula Jacob, that was a huge challenge having to mark her but I loved the challenge. Back then Ursula and Kate Kelly were two of the hardest players I had to mark. Today it would probably be Katie Power or Miriam Walsh. Every player brings a challenge and the way different counties set up or go out to play can make it tougher’. What better way to prepare to mark some of the best forwards in the country than Cork training! ‘All the Cork girls are hard to mark it’s very difficult to pin point one as the toughest, Orla Cotter and Katrina Mackey spring to mind, they are both a nightmare.’

Winning her first All-Star last year was a superb achievement for the 23 year old. ‘It was a great honour and a great bonus at the end of the year.’ Speaking to Laura I quickly conclude that she deserved every accolade and success that came her way in 2017 not only for her fantastic camogie ability but also for her sheer dedication and commitment to the sport. There are plenty of committed inter-county camogie players in Ireland but Laura’s commitment last year has to be up there with the best.

In 2017 she had her General Nursing Internship from January to September. Her placement was in Waterford hospital and manager Paudie Murray and the WGPA did all that they could to try and get her placement moved to Cork but this was to no avail. Instead Laura had to balance working full time, completing her Final Year Project and playing with Cork at the highest level. Cork training involves 4 collective pitch sessions Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sundays along with 2 individual gym sessions. For Laura’s internship she often had to work 3 long days. This sometimes meant missing a Cork training but on those occasions she was sent her own running programme and hurling session to do on top of the 2 gym sessions she already had to fit into a hectic week.

Then there was the trips back to Cork for training. After a tough training she would get back home to Killeagh around 10.30pm and by the time she greeted the family, did her lunch and meal preparation for the following day it was nearly midnight before she got to bed. 5.20am it was time to get up and head straight to Waterford for the next 13 hour shift. Despite this serious workload, long shifts and lots of miles Laura delivered her best year to date in 2017 which accumulated in All-Ireland success and her first All-Star award.

Her place on the All-Star team meant a trip to Madrid for the first All-Star trip. She thoroughly enjoyed the trip as it was ‘an opportunity to meet players from other counties and it was great craic and great promotion for camogie’. With the experience of playing with and against the top players in the country, I was interested to find out who would the Killeagh defender buy for Cork in a transfer market? ‘It would have to be Meighan Farrell from Kilkenny. She has a savage work rate and does some amount of work for Kilkenny supplying great ball into the forwards. She had a super game in last year’s final.’

With Kilkenny and Cork the top two teams in the country at present, a healthy and sometimes heated rivalry has established between both sets of players and managers. After spending 4 years in Waterford IT Laura has great admiration for Ann Downey and the Kilkenny players. ‘I know Ann, Conor Phelan and Paddy Mullally from my time in WIT. I’ve the uptmost respect for them and the Kilkenny players and I’d be very friendly with a lot of the Kilkenny girls’. But she’s quick to point out too that when she’s on the field she’s representing Cork and friendships are left aside for 60 minutes.

Paudie Murray has had a huge influence on Laura’s playing career and she credits him and his backroom team to Cork’s success. Paudie brings huge professionalism to the game and no stone is left unturned in their bid to be the best each year. Last year Cork were motivated to make amends for the defeat in the 2016 final and when Julia White scored the winning point their goal had been achieved. Which begs the question how does Paudie get them motivated for the upcoming 2018 campaign? ‘Paudie doesn’t need to try and motivate us. Our motivation comes from everyone individually. We all love playing camogie, we all want to keep improving and everyone loves winning. That feeling last September at the final whistle – we all want to feel that again’.

Its clear chatting to Laura she loves her camogie and playing for Cork is a dream come true but if she could change one thing about camogie I ask her what would it be? ‘It would have to be the way the women are treated compared to the men. I would love to see us treated equally and with more respect. Take this year’s league final which was a double header before the hurling final. We’ve played in double headers before and we would always get 2 tickets before a game but this year on the Friday night we were only given 1 ticket, you can be sure the hurlers got more than one ticket”

“It was such an insult to get one ticket. We would have preferred to get none. My mother and father ended up sitting in opposite stands because by the time my father went to get a ticket the stand that we had gotten the ticket for was sold out so he had to get a ticket for the opposite stand and they had to sit separately. It was just ridiculous and very disappointing. I would love to see the Camogie Association, the Ladies Football and the GAA all become one, it’s the only way to go for things to improve”

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