Q&A: Cork goalkeeper Aoife Murray - ‘They are the first ones who’ll call themselves feminists'

Aoife Murray has been keeping goal for the Cork camogie team for 16 years, and has seen considerable improvements in the sport at large, but the lack of women actively supporting female teams and sports continues to be a bugbear

Q: Cork lost to Kilkenny in last year’s All-Ireland final, and again in the 2017 league decider, so how disappointing was that?

A: A lot of people have said that we must have been disappointed with the league, but I actually left it in a very positive mood. I thought we had a great league. We had something like 70% possession in the final, but we didn’t convert it. That’s a positive. We had more scores than Kilkenny, but then the other side is how we didn’t win it. So we have been working on that the last few weeks.

Q: Kilkenny play with lots of bodies behind the ball, how difficult is that to counter?

A: They started that last year. We set up a system like it a few years back and won two All-Irelands with it. There is a little bit of that gone into their game. It works for them and they have a huge amount of players behind the ball, but we went one-on-one against them to an extent and it is something people didn’t expect from us. We conceded two goals and lost by three points. As much as it hurts a Cork person to say it, you’ve got to give them credit. They are deserving winners of everything they have won. We are all going to be chasing them.

Q: Is it a healthy rivalry or a bitter one?

A: When you have two teams in finals a rivalry will always develop and maybe it is through colleges as well. The likes of UCC playing Waterford IT and UL and so on, so often. It is a rivalry. For me it will never match the rivalry I came on to against Tipperary in 2002 and up to ‘06 or ‘07. They were the days when you could go hell for leather on the pitch and then for a drink afterwards. Whereas now everything is a bit more heightened with social media and everything.

Q: Losing the Munster final to Limerick recently wasn’t what Cork needed either

A: It was probably a kick in the arse. We played for 10 out of 65 minutes and we could have won that game so there is a positive and a negative again. We played the most enjoyable 10 minutes I think I’ve had, but then we lost the workrate and that was the most disappointing thing about the league in that we didn’t do the jersey or Cork justice. People in Cork will always be proud of a Cork team that gives 100 percent. You always want trophies, but true followers of sport in Cork just want you to have a bit of pride in the jersey. That’s true for the hurlers, footballers and ladies footballers.

Q: Is the strength and depth improving in camogie?

A: Yes, it has improved. When I started out it was Cork and Tipp. Like, it was Cork and Tipp in the Munster final, in the league final and then in the All-Ireland final. That’s completely changed. It’s improved because we have guys with good experience who have come in and treated us like men. Sometimes, as a woman, it’s not easy having guys shouting at you if you haven’t been used to that. It has taken girls a few years to come around to it, but they have come in and treated us like men and we can see that now with all the managements: a lot of ex-hurlers and footballers coming in and seeing us as a stepping stone, as grounds for experience. Some of the guys who came in the year we lost the final to Wexford came in to us afterwards and said: ‘that was some experience coming in to Croke Park’. The coverage is improving too and it will again when women start to support women in sport.

Q: That’s huge, isn’t it? There’s no shortage of women at men’s games

A: And they are the first ones who will call themselves feminists, you know? They will be all about running up Patrick’s Hill burning your sports bra. They are the ones that will not come down to Páirc Uí Rinn or CIT to follow us or support us. I don’t know what the answer is. Maybe it’s still not cool enough. I know plenty of women who will take the Monday off if the hurlers or footballers are playing the Sunday so they can go to Rearden’s. There would be a lot of money if you did have the answer, but we can see it in our open days. I used to be allergic to them, but now I love them because my nieces and nephews come. It’s great to see not only young girls coming, but young boys.

Q: Cork and Limerick played the last two Munster finals at Kilmallock and Charleville but shouldn’t it be straightforward to play more camogie games alongside men’s fixtures at bigger venues and in front of bigger crowds?

A: We struggle to get pitches and I can’t give out about Charleville, who very kindly gave us their grounds, but at the same time, two of our girls barely got in the gate that day. They were injured. A 17-year old wouldn’t get questioned as much going into a pub. There was a bit of a hoo-ha about it and the girls just finally barged in. The following day Cork were playing Tipp in the hurling in Semple Stadium and we were playing in Charleville at three o’clock the day before.

Q: That situation is a no-brainer, surely?

A: It is a pity... I’m not a big fan of playing before men’s games. Look, I play senior camogie, I’m 33 years of age and I would see myself — because it is how I was brought up by my parents — to be equal to all my brothers. And to think I’m a senior player on a second-hand bill to a hurling match… But maybe I have to swallow my own principles to make sure camogie progresses as well.


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