In an era when we are constantly bombarded with pundits expressing pity for the levels of commitment required of elite GAA players, it is refreshing to hear a camogie star explain how the love of the game outweighs all the negatives and demands.
It is the factor always ignored by critics: Players have the power to participate or not and that it is a passion for the sport, for being athletic and strong that sustains them.
Such is Michaela Morkan’s zeal for camogie, and the role the sport has had in her life, that she gave up a full-time job in London so she could keep playing for Offaly. The science teacher turns 26 shortly and recently finished a period of maternity cover in Dublin and is on the hunt for work.
“It’s very hard at the minute,” she says. “So many of my friends have gone to England, and I was there myself. I came back in 2014 and did some maternity cover in Dublin but there’s not much going on. And when you get into a school, you have to be there two years before you can get a job. It’s disheartening but I just have to stay at it. It could be worse, I have had a bit of subbing and maternity but I’ve nothing now for September and I don’t know where I stand.”
Morkan did a postgrad in England and had a permanent job but found the weekend travelling home for games exhausting.
And once it came to a call having to be made, there was no agonising.
“I loved the school I was in but I wasn’t comfortable staying over there with the camogie. I couldn’t do it long term. I just couldn’t give up camogie. I love it too much. It’s part of me, my family; it’s just where I come from. I came back because I couldn’t live without it.”
Whether Offaly were thriving or struggling never entered the equation. She needed to be out there and she needed to know she was in peak condition to perform.
She was 18 when she first appeared in an All-Ireland final and won an All-Star despite Offaly being nabbed at the very death by Clare in 2008.
The Faithfuls and Joachim Kelly returned to win the junior title the following year. Intermediate honours were added 12 months later, when she was captain.
“We have been up and down since we came up to senior. This year we have got a lot of new players in and the set-up is really good. We met at the start of the year and decided we would work our lives around camogie rather than the other way around.
“I was very young in 2010. Looking back I didn’t really take in that I was captain. It didn’t really come into my head. We won the All-Ireland and I should probably have enjoyed it more. I am (enjoying it) this year and I love being captain. I love helping the younger girls out and leading them on.”
Morkan has also had to contend with a largely unfamiliar attacking role. While she has played up front for Shinrone occasionally, she is more accustomed to moving forward from centre-back and picking people out.
Scoring so much, albeit predominantly from placed balls, has helped the settling process and her 10 points in last weekend’s defeat of Waterford at Walsh Park brought Morkan’s tally to 0-37 from five games. Offaly won four of those ties but not alone did they miss out on top spot on score difference, they were relegated to third behind Cork and Wexford.
That leaves them playing the National League champions Kilkenny in the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Quarter-Final at McDonagh Park, Nenagh this afternoon.
“It’s just the way it goes. One year we only won one match and got into a quarter-final. It is hard going when we’re hurling so well and it feels like we deserve a little bit more for what we’ve done but we’re in it and playing well.
“Kilkenny are a savage team, one of the top teams in the country but we know them well and we play a similar style. It will be a big challenge but we’ve done a lot this year and the lads have put so much work into us. I think we have a bit of belief we didn’t have before and the younger girls help that. They have no fear, they don’t worry about their best players or anything like that. They just go out and play. And that’s what we’ll plan to do.”
For more information on the Camogie Association’s Our Game Your Game campaign visit www.camogie.ie/ourgameyourgame.asp #OurGameYourGame
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