Cork star Orlagh Farmer turned down the possibility of an athletics scholarship in the United States to become a senior county player.

Farmer, 23, was a talented cross-country athlete and, after completing her Leaving Certificate, attracted interest from across the Atlantic.

The Midleton forward revealed: “I would have been big into cross-country and there was talk of a scholarship to Kentucky. I didn’t follow through with it, although I did meet up with people to talk about it. There was an option, but in my gut, I wanted to stay for the love of playing with my friends and with Cork.

“I did like the idea of going to America and I was late enough starting football, at 12 years of age, but I knew since then that this was the sport for me.”

Cork are certainly glad that Farmer stuck around and, since linking up with the senior panel as a fifth-year student in 2010, she’s won five All-Ireland senior titles and four Lidl Division 1 League crowns. Farmer is also an O’Connor Cup medallist from 2012 with UCC, but her first season at senior intercounty level ended in heart-break when Cork suffered a rare championship defeat to Tyrone in the All-Ireland quarter-final.

She recalled: “I was only new to the panel and it was a big experience for me.

“I just remember looking around the team afterwards and there was just silence, it was awful. Even Eamonn [Ryan] was silent in the dressing room. It was my first year on it and it would have meant a lot more to the older girls, but it was frightening.

“They wouldn’t let that happen again, it was a tipping point for them.”

Since then, Cork reeled off five successive All-Ireland senior titles and victory over Mayo at Parnell Park tomorrow would secure a fourth Division 1 League crown. Farmer worked hard for a regular starting place but still takes nothing for granted.

She added: “It’s just so competitive, even in terms of injuries and things like that.

“There are always girls that can come in and it’s hard to get your place in that sense, but I’m going well enough now and it’s open to anyone driving on at training.

“We’re always trying to impress and get that little bit extra out of ourselves, but it’s a team sport and any bit that you can contribute for the team is the main thing.”

For Cork, the Mayo game is ideal preparation for their TG4 Munster SFC opener against Waterford on Sunday week. The Rebels will begin the campaign without retired 10-time All-Ireland medallist Valerie Mulcahy and Farmer will never forget how the star player made her feel welcome when she first joined the panel.

She explained: “I really looked up to her when I was younger. My first training session was up in Watergrasshill, I was with her in a drill and I couldn’t believe that I was training with one of my childhood heroes. She was tapping me on the back and driving me on. She was outstanding, with a great attitude, skill, and huge commitment. She was there before training taking her shots and would stay back afterwards for more. I was lucky to play with her at UCC, as well.”

Off the pitch, Farmer is a PE and Irish teacher who’s also studying for a PhD at UCC. She’s looking at a physical activity sports intervention, aimed at getting more girls to participate through ladies football. She explained: “It’s the fastest growing sport in Ireland, but there’s a drop-out rate and girls tend to stop. I’m investigating the barriers and what motivates them.”

She joked: “At the end of it, I’ll be a teacher, hopefully a doctor, and a Farmer, with no land!”

Q&A

Q: Do you remember the day you decided this was the sport for you?

A: It was when I decided to play football for Cork, when there was talks of an athletics scholarship to America.

Q: Injury, illness aside, what’s the one thing you’d miss training for?

A: Family does come first so it would have to be a family event.

Q: Your sporting hero when you were 10?

A: I really looked up to Angela Walsh. She went to the same secondary school as me, even though she had left when I was in school. She left a legacy and I always looked up to her, as she was an outstanding player and a great help when I was 17 and called into the Cork panel.

Q: The favourite moment of your career so far?

A: The 2012 All-Ireland final. For some reason, that one resonates with me. 

I enjoyed playing in Croke Park and started that year, which made it all the better as well.

Q: Biggest frustration with your sporting career or your sport?

A: Injuries. The worst one was when I tore my gluteal muscle. I’ve had some ankle problems as well and I broke my collarbone but thankfully I haven’t had any serious knee injuries or anything like that.

Q: One rule change you’d make to your sport?

A: I’m just so used to the game by now that nothing really springs to mind but I would like more women to come to the games.

Q: What is your ultimate career goal?

A: I’d like to win a few more All-Irelands and get the best out of myself. You can’t beat playing in Croke Park so I’d like to play there as many times as possible.

Q: Five tracks for your ideal dressing room/training run playlist?

A: It’s hard to choose specific ones when you’re put on the spot but anything by Eminem and anything in the charts with a good, dance beat. I’m big into the rapping alright!

Here’s a little extra sport. Watch the latest BallTalk for the best sports chat and analysis:


Lifestyle

'Comics are not like regular books. They spark the intellect to expand the story and the message.'Drawn to reading: Using comics and illustrated stories to promote literacy in children

He thought ‘Line of Duty’ would last just one season. Instead, it propelled him to international success. Ahead of the return of the acclaimed drama ‘Blood’, Adrian Dunbar tells Ed Power why it still feels like a dreamAdrian Dunbar: ‘I just got very lucky’

More From The Irish Examiner