Before I say anything at all about my hands I have to put something on the record: I have the coldest hands in the world if you want the complete truth! I’d wear gloves in the warm-up before games most of the time, and I always have hand-warmers in the gloves and in my skort pockets.
Injury-wise my hands are good. They’re in great condition and I’ve never broken anything, touch wood. Over the years I’ve had small niggles and injuries - the ligament in my thumb might have been strained, or the ligaments in my wrist. When that happens I’d use a squeeze ball to build up the muscle and the grip in my hands to recover, but that hasn’t happened in a while, and I wouldn’t use a ball like that - or anything else - to build up the strength in my hands.
I do have long fingers - very long fingers. My Nan used to tell me when I was small that my fingers were perfect for playing the piano, but that’s something I never got around to: maybe when I stop playing camogie I might take it up. I suppose it has to help, to have long fingers, when it comes to controlling a hurley and sliotar.
I’m picky about my hurleys, but I think everyone is in this day and age. I go out to Michael Fitzgerald in Araglen, Fitzgerald Hurleys, for mine. I give him a ring once or twice a year and he has a record outside of what I want, length and weight. I take a size 31 hurley, which is very small, but I’m not that big myself anyway. They have the weight on record - I can’t remember what it is off the top of my head - and the style that I like. They call it the Coleman style, though I’m not sure who Coleman is or was. I use a plain black grip, nothing fancy.
With Cork, we tend to have four hurleys on the go during the season, but you’d want to switch them up as you’re going along. If you’re using one all the time and that breaks in a game, then the hurley carrier is running into you with a stick you’re not going to be one hundred per cent comfortable with. You have to use them in rotation, even though they’re all copies of each other, essentially.
I could use one of those in a game, obviously, but I couldn’t use a 34-inch hurley if I was unlucky enough to break my own four hurleys. I suppose if I had to I would, but I wouldn’t be comfortable with it, certainly.
At home, I have hurleys everywhere. I’m not too particular where I keep them either, as my mother would know well - she kills me when she finds them in the two sheds, behind the door, in the hall, in the wardrobe.
Getting started off, the game came to me pretty naturally but it was also something I worked very hard on. I’d say I worked on my game every single day of my childhood with my Dad.
Even though he didn’t play himself, he would still have brought me up to the field or the park every evening - and I mean every evening - and that was something we did before I even joined a club.
And I still try to get the hurley in my hand as often as I could. It’s necessary to keep your touch. I think Dónal Óg Cusack said one time that a day you leave the hurley down is a day lost, and that’s something that always stuck with me. Obviously I’ve had times when, through college or work, I haven’t been able to get the hurley in my hand, but I still try to practice as much as I can.
Players I admire? Patrick Horgan and TJ Reid are obvious ones - they’re not that much older than me but I admired them a lot when I was younger.
In camogie, Orla Cotter has terrific skills. Jenny O’Leary was someone I played with for Cork for only one year, but she had fantastic hands.
Gemma O’Connor’s someone I would have looked up to, her striking in particular is every bit as good as a man’s, and it’s great to still have the opportunity to play with her for Cork.
Even watching camogie and hurling, in person or on television, I suppose I’m always evaluating people’s skills and touch, though I try to stay away from judging them on mistakes because I know well how hard it is.
You hear people giving out on the sidelines or the stands and you know well they never played themselves. So I’d always try to stop myself from criticising players for mistakes because I can sympathise with them.
In terms of the opposite, players doing things that you say to yourself ‘how did they do that’, Cian Lynch from Limerick is a player whose skills are really top, top class: he’s done a few pretty extravagant things over the years in big games, things that leave you thinking, ‘this guy’s wrists are unbelievable’. The other one that leaps to mind is Austin Gleeson’s goal for Waterford against Cork in the All-Ireland semi-final a couple of years ago - he soloed through the middle and flicked the ball into the net, it was an incredible goal.