Age is but a number, says 38-year-old Sarsfields full-forward Emer Fennell as she bids to extend what has been a fairytale season.
Tomorrow afternoon at Riverstown (1pm), Sarsfields entertain Tipperary champions Drom & Inch in the Munster senior camogie semi-final.
The Cork club secured their place in the provincial competition when ending a 30-year wait for county championship honours a fortnight ago. It was no surprise victory. Sars have been the coming force in Cork camogie for the past few years. They reached the last four All-Ireland U14 Féile finals, winning three, while three successive county minor finals were contested between 2014 and ‘16, two of which yielded silverware.
Their current senior team, as you’d expect with such relentless underage success, is flooded with players in their late teens and early to mid-twenties.
Then there is Emer Fennell, or Emer O’Farrell as she was known when pocketing back-to-back All-Ireland medals with Cork in 2008 and ‘09.
Fennell raises the team’s average age somewhat and as she herself remarks, she didn’t grow up playing alongside these girls, she grew up playing alongside their mothers. But far from being carried by the team’s younger members, she has been the one leading their charge.
It was her goal deep in the second half of extra-time which rescued Sars from the jaws of defeat on the afternoon of their county quarter-final win over Carbery. She finished that game with 2-12 to her name. She hit three points in the subsequent semi-final win over the Barr’s, supplying 2-3 during the final triumph against Inniscarra.
“To win the county final was a fairytale,” says Fennell, whose husband Emmet is Sars manager.
On a personal note, it was the icing on the cake. It is something I have always dreamt of doing with my club. Nothing can describe winning a senior county title with your club, with girls you’ve watched grow up, girls who you have trained underage, and, in a lot of cases, I played with their mothers. Without them and without their dedication, commitment, and enthusiasm, it wouldn’t have happened.
“I know I am in my twilight years when it comes to playing. But, look, age is just a number. If you have the ability, the drive, and the love of the sport, age shouldn’t hold anyone back.”
The Account Manager and mother of two (Tom is nine, Anna is seven) is keenly aware that her well-being is heavily linked to her decision to keep coming back year after year. She heaps praise on her husband and parents for their roles in making it possible to continue togging out.
“I’m in a great position in that they’ve all been so supportive of me in keeping going. My kids, too, love to see me out playing. They are part of my drive and my inspiration.
“Sport and camogie has been my life. Getting out playing is good for mental health, good for physical health. It is great to have a good work-life balance. It’s very important to have an outlet. Camogie has been my outlet for all these years. I am the person today because of camogie and because of Sars. It has given me and provided me with great life lessons and great friends.
“A lot of people I’ve spoken to have said to me, keep playing because once you stop, you’ll never go back. It is so true. Keep driving on, keep playing. I’d so encourage that. If the body can do it, there is nothing impossible. To win two weeks ago was the pinnacle of my career.”
The hope is that their Munster campaign will extend beyond tomorrow and so put paid to any talk of potential retirement.