As camogie supremo Anna Geary returns as guest columnist in Feelgood, she opens up about tying the knot later this year, shopping for wedding dresses, body insecurities, and future plans. Esther McCarthy reports
What a whirlwind 12 months it’s been for Anna Geary. She strutted her stuff to impressive effect on Dancing with the Stars, led the Coney family to victory in Ireland’s Fittest Family, continued to establish herself as a talented sports pundit in a male-dominated industry, and qualified as a personal trainer.
That’s before we even get to one of the most special and memorable moments of her life — when long-term boyfriend Kevin Sexton got down on one knee and proposed in September. Kevin, who works for the GAA, popped the question in the grounds of east Cork’s Castlemartyr Resort just a day after they celebrated a friend’s wedding. They will return there to tie the knot in October.
“I’m still getting used to wearing it to be honest,” she says as she shows her stunning engagement ring. “I remove it when I go to the gym because I’m terrified I’m going to hit it off something.
“We were at a friend’s wedding and little did I know that 24 hours later he was going to propose. We were going for a walk back afterwards and there was a bottle of champagne hidden in the trees and I was thinking, ‘God he must have been very confident I was going to say yes to him,’” she jokes.
In person, Anna is every bit as quick-witted and vivacious as she comes across on screen. We meet in the the upmarket Twelfth Lock Boutique Hotel in Castleknock, Dublin, with colourful barges bobbing up and down in the waters of the Royal Canal outside the terrace.
After winning an incredible 20 All-Ireland medals for camogie, including seven senior All-Ireland medals for Cork, it’s clear she is applying the same focus and work ethic to her career (she previously worked in human resources in the corporate world). Anna recently qualified as a personal trainer, having qualified as a performance and lifestyle coach.
“While I have 12 years’ playing top-level sport, I felt that I needed to go back and solidify that knowledge and qualify. What I’m hoping to do next year is possibly go back and do a masters around performance psychology. That’s an area I really want to work in but also fitness is part of my life and it will be forever more.”
Anna grew up on a farm near the village of Milford in north Cork and inherited her parents’ work ethic. “My dad is a farmer so he’s self-employed. I saw from a very young age, 365 days a year, he went out and did some form of farming as part of his job. Even in the mornings when it was miserable outside, he had to get on with it.
“My mother is a secondary school teacher. She was pretty much my role model growing up because she is a very strong, independent woman, very kind-hearted as well. And she made me realise you don’t have to pick — you can be thoughtful and kind and want to help other people but also be extremely ambitious and independent in your life as well. I really saw that from mam, she taught me that. As did dad.
“I never really felt that there was nothing I couldn’t be. Now that wasn’t to say that they gave me illusions that I could be anything I wanted to be. What they said was if you’re willing to work hard enough, if there’s something you want to do, there’s no reason why you can’t give it a try. That was something that I learned and I think sports helped me to realise that. Everything doesn’t always go your way. I learned through sport as well that failure isn’t a weakness.”
Anna credits her dad with giving her a competitive instinct, and fondly remembers how he honed her and younger brother Thomas’s hurling skills by playing ‘hit the drainpipe’ outside the family home, much to her mother’s vexation (the drainpipe got broken a few times).
Anna laughs that he would never go easy on them and if he won, they’d know about it.
But when it comes to her wedding, Anna couldn’t be more chilled out. She recently started trying on wedding dresses, going for separate fittings with her bridesmaids, mum, and mother- and sister-in-law. She’s using the experience to spend time with people who mean a lot to her and while she hasn’t said yes to the dress yet, she’s determined not to get stressed about it.
“I can understand why people really stress because there’s so much choice, you don’t know what you want. I’m just trying to remind myself that there is a dress out there. You will be wearing one. It will be fine. You know you’re not getting married until October. Everything will work out.
“I am hoping I get that kind of flutter, that this is the dress that I can see myself walking down the aisle in. It’s about always feeling like [your real self] in the dress. You know, I have friends in the past who’ve looked back and if they had their time again they wouldn’t have bought that dress.
“If you are really, really stressed and uptight and not enjoying the months leading up to the wedding, there’s no light switch that’s going to make you feel the most relaxed and zen you’ve ever been, that every bride and groom wants to be on their wedding day. I want this to be the best experience when I look back on it, I want to be like, ‘Yeah I had the best laugh.’”
Anna is a passionate advocate for fitness, good health, and wellbeing, and will be sharing her insights and advice over the coming weeks in her latest series of columns for Feelgood.
She agrees that sport has helped her be more confident in her skin, and she still loves the energy and buzz that a good workout at the gym can bring.
Sport, she says, taught her to look at her body in terms of what it can do not for how it looks.
“So I really looked at my body as an instrument which would allow me to perform at the best of my ability.”
Still, Anna remembers that, like any teenager, she had little insecurities. “I had so much muscle, a lot more muscle in my body than a lot of other girls my age. But I still understood that that muscle was necessary for me to perform and for me to be at the best of my game. I’m very grateful to my body in a way because it was so strong that it allowed me to to get those opportunities.
“So you could look like a supermodel, you could be 5ft 11in, long legs, really slim, but if you don’t feel good in your skin that’s not going to show.
“I suppose we all are guilty of wanting what we can’t have.
“I would love to have long legs but it’s not to be. Like any man or woman, the older you get the more comfortable you are in your skin.”
Aa far as Anna is concerned, energy management goes hand in hand with time management, and being productive is of greater value than being busy.