Orla Cotter's American adventure throws up unexpected twists and turns

The Cork camogie star is now set to extend her stay Stateside.
Orla Cotter's American adventure throws up unexpected twists and turns

Were these normal times, Orla Cotter would be the one sending messages back home to Cork, enquiring how her teammates were faring as they finalised preparations ahead of the All-Ireland championship throwing-in.

Instead, it is the six-time camogie All-Star who has had plenty of contact from these parts the last couple of days.

The majority of texts and WhatsApp messages landing into her phone from friends and family on Leeside carry the same question: Are you safe?

And she is, Cotter’s Jersey City base — which looks across the Hudson River at Manhattan’s sprawling skyline — has escaped the civil unrest so visible in nearby New York City.

Cotter and her husband Mark moved stateside last October; Mark taking up a new role with his employer, Cotter taking a career break from teaching at Midleton College.

Never could they have envisaged how the last couple of months would pan out in their new surroundings.

The coronavirus has claimed the lives of more than 24,000 people in New York, with the pandemic this past week taking a backseat to the outrage and violence which has greeted the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Cotter says there have been protests along Jersey City’s main strip in recent days, each passing off without incident.

“There hasn't been any of the crazy looting or rioting near us, thankfully,” the seven-time All-Ireland winner begins.

“Jersey City is not a huge shopping area. It's not like over in New York or other parts of America where you are seeing looting taking place. There has been nothing near us, nothing that we are aware of anyway. It has been safe where we are, thankfully.”

Though it does not affect them, the couple has been receiving emergency alert messages on their phone regarding the curfew imposed in New York City whereby residents must be at home, or at least out of public spaces, by 8pm each evening.

“It is fine where we are. I wouldn't feel unsafe walking up to the shop or anything. Where we are, thank God, you wouldn't feel unsafe going out.”

Cotter’s work visa had just come through when the East Coast began to go into lockdown in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19. Mark has been working from home since March, while she is hopeful of picking up work when restrictions ease in the coming weeks.

“At the start, I was looking at the daily number of cases over here, but I kinda stopped after a while because they weren’t improving and I’m not sure how good it is to be constantly looking at them.

“Going into any shop or even collecting a delivery from a window, you have to wear a face covering. It says to wear them in parks too. The coronavirus and all the restrictions that came with it was the last thing on our agenda when we moved over, or anyone’s agenda for that matter.

"We had loads of visitors planning on coming out in April, May, and June. We had a few trips planned within America ourselves. That all went by the wayside. Hopefully, we are coming out stronger on the other side of it now. I know things are going pretty well at home. That's positive.”

Speaking of home, prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, she had briefly flirted with the idea of returning to Cork for the summer and maybe throwing her lot in with Paudie Murray’s side.

“If the girls were getting ready for championship in the next week or two, I'd definitely be a bit itchy to get back. It is weird that you are not even thinking along those lines because of everything that is going on. Everyone realises there are bigger and more important things going on.”

The plan was for Mark and Orla to spend one year stateside and then reassess, but given 2020 has effectively been written off, the couple is likely to extend their stay for another year.

“We will probably stay for two years now, in the hope that we might get to do a bit more traveling at some stage, see some different states.”

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