Hometown Heroes: Cork camogie stalwart Mary Newman on her cancer scare and her love for her club

Roisin Burke speaks to the beating heart of Glen Rovers camogie, Mary Newman
Hometown Heroes: Cork camogie stalwart Mary Newman on her cancer scare and her love for her club

Mary became a mentor and a selector for Glen Rover’s camogie and over the years she has become the backbone of the northside sporting organisation.

The beating heart of northside camogie, Mary Newman and her family have been involved in The Glen Rovers and Cork camogie teams for as many years as she can remember.

“I come from a family steeped in sport, my mother played all her life with Glen Rovers and is our club president. I travelled all over Ireland with my mam and the Glen Rovers and Cork camogie teams, so I suppose sport is in my genes.” 

At the moment, Mary is the secretary of the Glen Rovers Camogie Club as well as the PRO for the Glen Rovers Hurling Club, but she has also given 15 - 20 years to the Cork County Board as PRO in the past.

“I was born into it, my mam Nora was chairman of Glen Rovers Camogie Club when I was born and I got involved as a mentor when I had to stop playing camogie due to injury.” 

Mary stopped playing in her mid-20s due to back pain, something she still has to manage to this day.

“I was only an average player anyhow but I really loved it so rather than miss out or walk away, which wasn't likely in our family, I was rocketed into helping on the committee and the rest, as they say, is history.” 

Mary became a mentor and a selector for Glen Rover’s camogie and over the years she has become the backbone of the northside sporting organisation.

Chatting about what she enjoys about helping out with the club, Mary said there is a strong social side to being a part of a close-knit club and also said that there is great joy in nurturing young talent to achieve great things.

“The friends you make, the satisfaction you get when you see a player who might have come into the club as a mere four-year-old starting to develop and enjoy the sport.

"To see them make new friends is always great and of course, when they win something the thrill it gives to the players, club mentors and all the families. We enjoyed so many fantastic days and are still enjoying them and it makes it all worthwhile.” 

Ken Tyrrell dropping off food to Mary Newman of Glen Rovers Camogie Club.
Ken Tyrrell dropping off food to Mary Newman of Glen Rovers Camogie Club.

But Mary was quick to mention, it’s not all about the all-stars.

“Sometimes you see a player who you know may not have the capabilities to be a star but they are the players who may sometimes be the ones who will go on to be invaluable to your club in some other way. 

They could be a mentor or official so it is so important that everybody who comes and joins up is minded and made feel welcome and I suppose it is the love of my club and the pride in our club that keeps us all going.” 

The proud Norrie, said there are great bonds made in the club that have carried her through tough times.

"In 2013 I had a total shock that knocked us all for six when out of the blue I got a call back from a routine mammogram to be told I had pre-cancerous calcium deposits and the short of it was I needed to have a mastectomy as a precautionary measure.

"The first thing I did was go and tell the club, face to face. All the mentors, then the teams and then all the parents because I knew how the rumour mill works and I knew they would have me dead if they heard something.

"The support was amazing and by the time I came to heading into hospital I was calm because every one of them had said to me 'You will be grand Mary, you’re tough out'."

In ten days Mary was back in the fold.

"We were preparing for the senior county semi-final, I went to the game and there was no molly cuddling, I was handed back the team sheet book which I had entrusted to one of the mentors whilst I was out of action and she said ‘Here ya go, this is your job, write the team list there and sit down.’” 

 “It was great to be back in the thick of things and none of them made any fuss but I knew they all cared as every now and then someone would just whisper ‘How ya doing Mary?’."

The northside woman said it had been a close call that they managed to detect the pre-cancerous cells when they did.

“I had an appointment for a mammogram and it was three-four months away and I forgot about it. Then when I looked at the letter, I had missed the appointment by a week. Thankfully when I rang them up they made another appointment for the following Monday.” 

Always one to give back, Mary has been looking after club members since the pandemic kicked off, with a variety of online challenges organised by the club and backed by the Newmans to keep the 200 members of the organisation healthy and well with over the past 12 months.

As well as that, the stalwart Glen Rover fan was an integral part of the Glen Rovers Camogie Club Foodbank which was coordinated by the club in aid of Cork Penny Dinners.

Mary, whose husband Finbarr McCarthy is another die-hard sports fan and volunteer and is the current secretary for St Nicholas’ Gaelic Football club, said sport can bring out the very best in people.

“I think sports teaches you to be part of an extended family and certainly in my club, Glen Rovers, we have brilliant people most of whom you could call on at any time of the day or night and they are there for each other so I suppose it teaches us a sense of loyalty and belonging.”

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