HUMAN dynamos Briege Corkery and Rena Buckley are bidding to win a 16th All-Ireland senior medal each in next weekend’s TG4 All-Ireland ladies’ senior football final, just 14 days after winning their 15th in the camogie decider.
Their dedication is such that Cork camogie manager Paudie Murray has revealed his biggest problem was stopping them from over-training, particularly Corkery. “Over the last two years we’ve managed them quite well but I had to sit down with Briege in January 2014,” Murray revealed. “She would be out (training) seven days a-week if she could…and chasing cattle as well,” he quipped of the Cloughduv star who now works as a dairy farmer. “I gave her nights off (training) provided she did nothing else because I found out two years ago that when I was giving her a night off she’d be off playing a club game! “Rena is a physiotherapist so she understands the demands on her body very well but the reality is that there had to be a major trust factor between the three of us.”
Cork camogie train Tuesday and Thursdays while their footballers – chasing a 10th All-Ireland in 11 years – usually train on Wednesdays and Fridays. Murray felt four nights-a-week, on top of weekend games, was far too heavy a workload so tailored his demands on his duals stars. “I’d have no problem with them doing 20 minutes in a ball-alley on Tuesday and training with the footballers on Wednesday night because you knew their hurling and their fitness was being kept ticking over.”That’s where the quality of people in our back-room comes in,” Murray explained. “They are exactly the sort of people who could spot if either of them, or any other player, was struggling physically and needed to be pulled up in training.”
Cork camogie’s management team certainly caught the eye this season for two reasons – its size and its gender imbalance. They had a female physio but there wasn’t a single woman in their nine-strong management team and no one was more annoyed about that than Murray himself. “I’ve had women involved in the back-room before and I’m certainly not anti-female, anything but!” he said, pointing out that he is surrounded by women daily, including his wife, two daughters and six sisters.
“But even last year when I went looking (for selectors) and spoke to a number of former Cork (camogie) players, no one would commit. “There can be lots of reasons for that but it annoys me sometimes,” he admits. “I’m often asked about getting the Cork hurlers to support us but surely you have to get strong camogie support first?”We’d have people down here who would have gone to the All-Ireland hurling final this year and would have played (camogie) with Cork but possibly weren’t up in Croke Park for our final. I honestly don’t understand why that is.”
His team certainly showed the extent of expertise now being applied to the elite end of women’s gaelic games. Apart from Murray there was George Fitzgibbon (selector), Dr Wesley O’Brien (hurling coach), Sean Cremin (hurling coach), Kevin Mulcahy (strength and conditioning), Niall Collins (video analysis/statistics), Teddy O’Donovan (goalkeeping coach), Damien Murray (logistics) and Michael Carroll (match-day runner). Fitzgibbon, Carroll and Mulcahy all have strength and conditioning qualifications from Setanta College where Murray (who is an auctioneer) is also currently pursuing an S&C qualification. Dr O’Brien lectures in sports science in UCC, Cremin and Carroll also both have sports science degrees and Collins is a computer boffin.
“I’m the least qualified of the lot of them!” Murray quipped, explaining that O’Brien has particular expertise in ‘functional movement and spatial awareness’ while Mulcahy has worked in Aussie Rules football. It was a back-room team that was as heavy-hitting off-pitch as their players were on-field and all were volunteers. Yet Murray, ironically, believes “there’s too much emphasis put on managers and coaches. It’s the players who really win an All-Ireland.”
So why such a huge management team then?
“I’m looking after two teams as we had the intermediates as well, there was 51 girls (training) this year so you need people to manage that,” he explained. “Did I need everyone up in Croke Park? I felt everyone who was there made a very valuable input so would I have gone with less? Absolutely not. We run a very professional set-up. When I came in I wanted us to be the best prepared Cork team ever and I feel we were.”
Extensive video analysis, both of themselves and the opposition, is now an accepted part of elite women’s GAA yet Murray confesses that two of the Rebelettes’ best players in the All-Ireland camogie final used it least. “One of them probably looked at the videos we gave her twice this year!” he laughed. “But every player is different. Some buy into it and you have to be careful too that you don’t over-analyse things.”
He would love to use a GPS system with his players but can’t afford it and finance is one of the things that restricts even Cork’s elevated level of preparation. “Ideally I’d love to be able to sit down with our camogie board and ask to have these girls in gym from October 1 but obviously they’re not flush with money so you work with what you have,” Murray said. “Another difficulty is that we have girls away in UL and WIT and we have a few more away teaching (Julia White in Kilkenny, his goalkeeper sister Aoife in Dublin and Maria Walsh in Portlaoise). “You have the Ashbourne (the third-level championship) up to the end of February so we usually leave them with their colleges until after that is finished and then just fit a lot of work into a short space of time.”
For Corkery and Buckley, just double that work-load to imagine their massive effort and dedication as they bid to repeat their latest All-Ireland double next Sunday.