Touching down in Dublin Airport after five “massively intense” days in one of Ethiopia’s poorest regions, Aoife Murray’s mind was made up.
She was coming out of retirement.
The six-time All-Ireland winning Cork goalkeeper had stepped away from the inter-county scene following September’s final win over Galway. While she had toyed with the notion of returning to her brother Paudie’s set-up throughout March and early April, it was her brief stint in the south Ethiopian village of Ropi as an ambassador for children’s charity ChildFund Ireland that convinced her to reverse her decision.
“Going to Ethiopia changed things completely. I didn’t come home a saint or anything like that, but what I saw out there and the poverty we encountered gave me fresh perspective,” reflected Murray ahead of today’s Munster camogie final where champions Cork face Limerick at Kilmallock (3.30pm).
The six-time All Star, along with Wexford ’keeper Mags D’Arcy, travelled to Ethiopia in mid-April to present bicycles to 10 children as part of the charity’s Dream Bike campaign. The pair also met the girls they have been sponsoring for the past year.
“We stayed in the city of Shashemene which was a five-hour drive south of the capital Addis Ababa and then the village of Ropi was an hour and a half drive from Shashemene, so we saw the real Ethiopia. The poverty was unbelievable.
“All the children were wearing rags and those who weren’t were wearing nothing at all. Their filthy clothes contrasted starkly with these absolutely massive smiles on their faces. It was hard to take that all these kids knew nothing else other than living in such conditions. It was heart-breaking.”
Highlights from the week included the bicycle presentations and meeting five-year-old Birtukan who Murray has been sponsoring since joining the charity last year.
“Meeting Birtukan was very emotional. She was frightened meeting me as she didn’t know who I was or why I was there. I brought her out a Cork jersey with a number 1 and her name on it. I gave her a hurley and a sliotar as well. We started to play a little bit of camogie and all of a sudden, she just broke out in this big smile. I got her mother playing a bit too. The father was there as well saying she wasn’t doing it right and I was thinking to myself, ‘this is just like home’! By the end, she wouldn’t let go of me.”
Having re-joined the Cork set-up upon her return, Murray was introduced off the bench with five minutes remaining in their Munster semi-final win over Tipperary earlier this month. “I’m glad to be back in the dressing-room. If I’m number 16 or 25, I don’t care. I’m happy just to be back involved. When the clock went back an hour, I found myself thinking about what the girls might be doing at training. That itch to play again wasn’t long in coming back.”
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