‘I never thought I’d be back playing camogie so it was lovely to bring him and say he got onto Croke Park’

THIS SEASON WAS too short for Briege Corkery. Another few weeks to work with would have been great, she reckons.

Briege Corkery.

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

After an almost two-year absence from inter-county camogie, she made her return to the Cork panel in August.

She had just given birth to her son Tadhg in March, but getting back into the red jersey quickly came into view for her.

The goal was to get as much game time as possible, and potentially work her way back onto the team. She came close to getting over the line but she ran out of road.

She got three minutes on the pitch in the All-Ireland semi-final win over Tipperary and was thrilled to get them as Cork booked a date in Croke Park to defend their title.

“I was just waiting for the call really. I nearly ran on with the bib I was so excited,” she laughs.

They were facing their rivals Kilkenny in the final and Corkery was hopeful that she might get to play a part.

It turned out to be another tight affair between the sides in an All-Ireland final, the kind of game that the Cloughduv star thrives in.

But it didn’t work out as she was held in reserve for the full game which was settled by a late Orla Cotter free to ensure Cork retained their crown.

“I was hoping I’d get a run. I thought I was going ok and was asking the lads if they thought I was going ok or what do I need to do [to improve].

Obviously you’d be disappointed that you didn’t get a game but I can’t complain, they’re training since last December and I rock on back in July so I can’t have any qualms about not getting a game.

“Of course, I’d love to have got a game and I was mad to go on but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.”

There were a few important factors behind Corkery’s return to Cork camogie. She missed the intense training that comes with the inter-county game and was eager to recapture the fitness levels she possessed before taking a break for the 2017 season.

She also had a persistent manager regularly checking in to see if he could persuade her to come back.

Cork boss Paudie Murray after winning the All-Ireland final.

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“Only for Paudie Murray getting on to me, I probably would never have gone back and I’m delighted I got the opportunity to go back and give it a go,” Corkery admits.

“In December, Paudie asked me what am I doing and I was like ‘Jeez Paudie, I need to have the child first.’ So it didn’t even enter my head but then Paudie kept going onto me and I felt for myself, I was after putting on an awful lot of weight and wasn’t feeling great.

“I thought it would be nice to try and get back to that fitness. That was really what spurred me on. I really enjoyed going to training.”

It was a daunting task to undertake and Corkery had to ensure everything was in place before she could start training again.

Making such a late arrival into the panel played on her mind and she sought reassurance from the manager as well as captain Aoife Murray that the other players would accept her back at this stage of the season.

Once it was established that her teammates were more than happy to welcome her back, Corkery quickly got to work.

Naturally, the early days at training were a struggle.

I was a mile behind and I had a lot of weight to lose. It was the first time I’ve ever gone on a diet. I’ve never had to watch what I was eating so I was put on a diet.

“It was very tough, I was struggling a lot of the days but I’m quit a stubborn person and I think that got me over the line a small bit. When I put my mind to something, I’m at 100%.

“I was on a programme so I was training twice a day for nearly seven days a week. I was going to club training and going as hard as I could and doing some running after for myself. 

“I worked hard at it and watched what I was eating. When I came back, I had to get down to a certain weight and I was happy we hit that target. I had a good bit of weight to lose and it was great to have that.”

Corkery was only a short time out of the game, but she quickly discovered that inter-county camogie had moved on since she last played in 2016.

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There were new drills to adapt to and new training methods that she had to learn.

It was an adjustment of course but her teammates were on hand to give her a steer and help her understand the instructions. 

Playing against Tipperary in the semi-final was a milestone for her, and while she didn’t feature in Cork’s victory over Kilkenny in the All-Ireland final, she did get to bring Tadhg out onto the pitch for the celebrations.

He didn’t quite enjoy the whole experience but it was nice for Corkery to have him out there with her. She never thought she would ever get such an opportunity to enjoy this moment as a mother.

Baby Tadhg Scannell.

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“He let me down badly,” she laughs

“The men always get to bring their children onto Croke Park after winning or losing and I always thought it was such a nice thing. Not many women have got the opportunity to do it.

I always thought that I’d love to have done that and it was something I thought I’d never get to do. I never thought I’d be back playing camogie so it was lovely to bring him on and to say he got to come onto Croke Park.”

Becoming a mother has brought new challenges for Corkery, particularly in her sporting life but it just requires more planning.

Babysitters have to be arranged, bottles have to prepared and a whole other multitude of things have to be considered to maintain a balance.

In her typically modest way, Corkery doesn’t see herself as a role model in this respect but she is eager to spread the message that female athletes don’t have to retire from sport when they have children.

“My own sisters had babies and they went back playing with club.

Sarah Carey from Limerick went back after having a baby. I wouldn’t think I’d be a role model for that but it’s something that girls should realise that having a baby doesn’t stop your life. It makes things harder for running out the door and stuff.

“Before, you could come home in the evening and chill out whereas [now] you have to prepare for the following day especially when you need to get a babysitter ready.

“90% of the population are probably more organised than I am,” she laughs.

Corkery has returned to her job in the bank but she is from a farming background and that’s still a part of her life.

Briege and Tadhg taking it all in after the All-Ireland final.

Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

She and her husband Diarmuid Scannell plan to lease out a farm in Ballincollig in the new year, while baby Tadhg is already a regular visitor to the milking parlour.

“Tadhg is brought into the milking parlour, he sits in his pram watching the cows go by. He’s out in the yard. There’s no fear, we’d throw him up in the tractor and take him round for a spin.”

There’s unfinished business for Corkery in her camogie career. She accepts why she couldn’t get on in the All-Ireland final, but the competitive side of her character remains unsatisfied.

She didn’t reach her target of getting back into the team and plans to correct that in 2019.

There’ll be no late return this time though and she confirmed to The42 earlier this month that she will be back with the panel from the beginning of the new year.

“I wasn’t going back to lounge around and do nothing, I was going back to get back on the team. I didn’t make my target but look, it was great to have the opportunity to go back and if we had another couple of weeks I could have got there but things just went against us.

“There’s no point going back just happy to sit on the bench. I wouldn’t have any interest in sitting on the bench.” 

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