Aoife Murray is the new captain of All-Ireland camogie champions Cork, who begin their Littlewoods Ireland League campaign against Galway at Cork Camogie Grounds tomorrow. A sister of manager Paudie and former All-Ireland-winning Rebel hurler Kevin, the 34-year-old Cloughduv goalkeeper is going into her 17th year at senior level and hoping to add to
her tally of eight All-Irelands and seven All-Stars.
Q: Did the captaincy contribute to your decision to play on in 2018?
A: I was really considering retiring, I’m not going to lie. I sat down with those who are closest to me. We discussed it and at the end of the day, you’re retired long enough.
I’ve spoken to a lot of people who probably felt they retired a year or two before they should have and regretted that.
I’d much prefer to go back and for that to be the wrong decision, than to not go back and that be the wrong decision.
It was first mooted about the captaincy in early January. It would have been a childhood dream of mine and I think if anybody said they never dreamt of it, they’d be lying to you.
It’s an amazing opportunity and a really nice touch to do that for me.
Q: Having stepped away once before at the end of 2015, you know what it feels like to realise you’d made that wrong call.
A: Actually, yeah. I thought then ‘This is it.’ Once that hour went back, it’s completely different.
Your mindset completely changes. You’re looking at the lovely long evenings. You’re still in touch with some of the girls.
They’re complaining that they have to go training and you’re thinking ‘I’d love to be going to training!’ It was a massive lesson for me and it made me not jump into it.
It’s easy after you win to jump into a decision of retiring because you’re feeling so good but you know what, most of the easy decisions I have made in my life have been wrong so I took a bit of time to think about it.
Q: Was Paudie staying on a factor?
A: It probably would have been. I wasn’t going to make a decision until he had one made.
If he had gone back, I wouldn’t have let him down. Whatever about leaving him down, I’d be leaving my parents down and my family down.
My Dad had a stroke years ago and us playing and being involved is such a boost.
I haven’t seen my parents since I was announced as captain but I know from talking to my brothers and sisters they’re absolutely buzzing.
Q: You were always known as a leader in the dressing room. Will the captaincy change anything?
A: I hope not. I think, as a captain, I’m quite lucky to have the panel of players that are there.
For me to walk into the dressing room as captain, I’ll be walking into a dressing room full of captains. If that’s not how it is, we’re at nothing anyway, whether I’m captain or not.
Girls that are in there now, have all lost and have all won. Those girls are well able to lead from the front.
I saw that in last year’s final, the attitude they had, the patience, the composure and the maturity. I’ll be hoping the only difference for me this year is having to pick “heads or tails”.
Q: How do you reflect on 2017?
A: Everybody is saying to me ‘Ye had a great year’ and I’m saying the difference was six minutes between us having a good year – because we didn’t have a great year, it was a good year – versus us having an absolutely terrible year. So we’re not getting carried away.
We have a nice environment of honesty… we know we didn’t hit form in training until the end of July so we’ve loads to work on.
And individual players know they could write out 10 things they need to work on — I certainly have. You can’t rest on your laurels.
Q: What are the targets for the Littlewoods Ireland League?
A: It’s starting so early this year. It’s too soon for me, unfortunately. I’m coming back from a knee injury, Gemma (O’Connor) is coming back from a knee injury.
It’s a pity as we loved playing the League last year. It was a great foundation for us for the championship.
Especially when you’re older as it sometimes takes a little bit longer to get the fitness back! We’ve got a lot of girls involved with college games as well. So I’d say it’ll be quite an experimental team.
Last year we got Chloe Sigerson, Niamh McCarthy and Libby Coppinger from the League. If we could get another two or three, win or lose, it’ll be worthwhile.
Losing the League final was awful, as we had 70 per cent of the possession but we turned it around afterwards and it was a super learning.
Q: We know you have been managing chronic back pain caused by herniated discs and damaged vertebrae for years, and were told to by a consultant to stop playing in 2013. But what’s the story with the knee?
A: I don’t have any cartilage in my right knee. My right knee cap has shifted off to the right so it’s just bone on bone.
I ended up getting a cyst at the back of my knee and I got it drained a few weeks back. I got an injection at the front to try and replace the cartilage.
So I’ve got four weeks of rehab trying to build up the calves, the quads, the glutes to try and take that impact. It’s never gonna be fixed but if I can get through… Last year, it was ballooning. I had it strapped for the final.
The Friday before, I got down on my knees to talk to my three-year-old niece. She’s from Derry so I love her accent. Then I looked at my brother Kevin and said ‘You’re gonna have to help me up here.’
Q: You took part in the inaugural All-Stars tour to Madrid. How important was that
A: We knew it was important before it happened but we all felt it was such a success because, firstly it was really enjoyable.
It was a super atmosphere and getting to socialise with all the other girls is something I haven’t had the opportunity to do in years.
Back in the day, you’d go to a restaurant and have a beer or two with the opposition.
You don’t do that in the last 10 years. For the likes of me and Gemma it was like going back in time.
We could relax with these people you’d be beating the heads off of and we were all able to mix and have the craic. It was great fun.
But not only that, the game showed how it’s moving on with the speed of it and the skills. It shows we’re in a better place than a lot of people realise.
There was great feedback here from people I know that haven’t a clue about camogie. There was some negativity, people saying it should have happened years ago but you can’t go back.
At least it’s happening now and now it has happened once, it has to happen again and for the girls that are there in two years, it’ll be bigger and better.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved