Family dynasties are nothing new in the GAA but inter-county camogie is particularly loaded with them at the moment.
Most prominent are the three Farrell sisters for All-Ireland champions Kilkenny, the Mackeys in Cork, the McGraths of Galway and the Cassidys of Derry, who helped Slaughtneil to this year’s surprise All-Ireland club title.
Three Mulcahys started for Limerick when the Shannonsiders won the 2014 All-Ireland Intermediate Championship but the eldest of the trio, wing-back Claire, is watching captain Niamh and corner-back Judith from the sidelines now after a very happy addition to the family.
Twins Killian and Finn were born six months ago and, given that her husband is Leinster and Ireland hooker Sean Cronin, they’ll surely be blessed with sporting genes.
Claire doesn’t care what the twins grow up to play just as long as they have fun and, ideally, in a team situation.
“If they are sporty I’d really love them to be involved in team sport rather than an individual one because I know just how much enjoyment that brings,” she says.
“Working with a group of people is such a fantastic thing, as we’ve found with sport. You have so much fun and make such great friends when you’re part of a team.”
She’s back training again locally with a club in Dublin where she’s now living but also back travelling down to Limerick to resume her club commitments with their native Ahane.
Sporting genes run in the Mulcahys’ family as their father Ger and their mother Vera (nee Mackey, a niece of legendary hurler Mick) were both prominent players for Limerick.
Vera played in two All-Ireland club finals and in the 1980 All-Ireland senior final where Limerick were pipped by Cork in a replay.
The sisters tease their dad, outflanked on all sides by his wife and three daughters, that he always wanted a son and has finally got his wish with the arrival of twin grandsons.
The importance of close family support for all busy women’s players was underlined this week when the Women’s Gaelic Players’ Association (WGPA) announced a new sponsorship deal with Pat The Baker.
The launch featured several inter-county players and their families, including phenomenal Sligo footballer Etna Flanagan, a 41-year-old mum of four who will be lining out against Leitrim tomorrow in the Connacht intermediate final.
With only five years between the three Mulcahys did they fight growing up?
”Oh yes, of course!” youngest Judith (25) laughs. “We still fight, mostly over who drives to training. Myself and Niamh are both living at home at the moment and we both hate driving. And then there’s the ‘where’s my gear?’ stuff before training. All the usual things with sisters.”
They certainly couldn’t be more different in their career choices which reflect the eclectic profile of women’s inter-county squads these days.
Claire is a marketing executive, Niamh is a national school teacher and Judith studied public health and is a primary care co-ordinator in Newcastlewest.
Their particularly tight-knit family and closeness in age definitely helped develop their game.
“We were always practising together and going training together,” Judith recalls.
”We played a bit of everything growing up. I focussed on basketball and camogie and only gave up the basketball in first year in college because it clashed with the camogie.
“Niamh played a bit of international soccer and Claire played hockey for Munster and with Pembroke in Dublin. You’d have those mad weekends where we’d all be rushing off to a match, especially when we were younger.
“Mum would be gone with Niamh, Dad would be bringing Claire somewhere and I’d be thrown off somewhere else but we weren’t the only family like that,” she stresses.
She was in her usual number seven spot when Limerick caused a sensation this summer by beating Cork 1-13 to 0-14 to win their first Munster senior title.
Niamh was also her usual metronomic self that day with a tally of 0-11 from frees.
Having pushed Cork to within two points last year it was not a total shock, especially as Limerick have been bolstered by the return of Sarah Carey to centre-back this year.
Other key players are Karen O’Leary, Rebecca Delee, Caoimhe Costelloe and Caoimhe Lyons but losing Mairead Ryan to a recent cruciate injury was a blow.
And that historic provincial victory in Charleville came back to haunt them last weekend when the Rebels struck back with a vengeance and beat them heavily in the group stage of the All-Ireland Championship.
After suffering a one-point defeat to Offaly in their first game Limerick must now win their two remaining Group 2 games against Tipperary and Wexford to make the quarter-finals.
That means today’s clash with Tipp in Thurles (3pm), which has been moved from The Ragg to form a double-header with the Tipperary v Westmeath hurling qualifier, is an absolute must-win.
Manager John Tuohy has admitted that their 3-14 to 2-18 loss to Offaly was particularly costly.
“We targeted that game as a win and didn’t get it. Our form has dropped a little since we won the Munster title,” he said. “That can happen to sides after they win something they’ve been trying to win for years but now the focus has to be on our performance against Tipperary.”
** The WGPA represents 1,300 players in 55 inter-county squads and its new five-year partnership with Pat the Baker is based on a percentage of sales of their new ‘Be Healthy’ wholemeal loaf.
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