Féile special: Anna Geary on what makes the competition so special

Féile special: Anna Geary on what makes the competition so special
Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

MENTION the name Anna Geary to lots of people and shows like Ireland’s Fittest Family or Dancing with the Stars will come to mind.

Others might talk about her other roles on sports shows on TV or her Sunday afternoon show on RedFM.

But long before Anna was well-known for any of these she was one of the top camogie players in the country and captained Cork to All-Ireland success in 2014.

She announced her retirement the following year and since then her career has taken off and Anna is now living in Dublin where she is in much demand, not only for the above but also as a wellness coach.

For any young player she is a role model as she managed to mix a successful career, with her ability to play camogie to the highest level for Cork and her club Milford for many years.

Her list of honours would take too long to mention, but it includes senior All-Ireland’s and two All-Ireland senior club championships.

But even with all that success Anna still fondly remembers playing Féile with Milford and even then she was showing signs of her camogie skills as she played in three finals.

Whilst the games were an important part of the finals weekends it was the friends she made, players she came across and would meet again, and other memories were the best part according to Anna.

“The first year I played it was in Wexford, then in Antrim and the third year it was in Cork,” said Anna.

“We had some great players in our sides around then, the likes of Elaine O’Riordan, the Watson sisters and others who were great to play alongside. Not alone were they great players, but they were great friends and still are to this day.

“For me the Féile is a great competition as it teaches players an awful lot at what is a young age. You learn about winning, losing and also how to stand up for yourself.

“It takes courage for someone who might be 12 or 13 to go into a strangers house for a few nights and then have to say things like, ‘yes I like that thanks, or no sorry I don’t eat that’.

“These may seem like small things now, but at that age they are not and it’s a big learning curve for them.

“There was alway a bit of banter about what the family and house you were staying in was like. I remember one family took us everywhere, great trips around the area and showed us all the sights.

“You would be talking to others and they were fed on lettuce sandwiches for the weekend and one lot were telling us how the towels they were given had so many holes you could put your head through them!

“I remember my first memory of going into one of the houses was watching an older brother of the girl we were staying with and he was ironing his socks, something you don’t see too often!

“But when you look back theses are all great memories and ones that you will remember all the days of your life.

“It was also the first time that I came across players like Ursula Jacob and others that I would come across playing for Cork. Even back then you could see how good they were.

“Whilst I loved going away for the two finals I have to say being at home for the third one was really special. You remember things like the disco on the Saturday night and the craic we had over the weekend.”

Anna playing for Milford in 2002. Picture: Richard Mills.
Anna playing for Milford in 2002. Picture: Richard Mills.

Anna also had some advice for the young players, coaches and parents that will throng venues all over Cork and Kerry from next Friday night.

“To the players I would say above all else enjoy the weekend. It’s a special tournament and the most important part is the memories you will have forever from it. Only one team can win in every division so the majority will be disappointed in that regard, but really it’s all about having a bit of fun with your team-mates and your new friends.

“To the coaches I would say encourage your side. I know in the heat of a game we can all get carried away, but if someone is not having a particularly good game don’t start shouting at them.

“Encourage them and praise them at every opportunity, you know if they get a block in or make a great pass or set up a score, then tell them well done.

“Even at that age they will know if they are not at their best and encouragement is the best way to try and get them back to it.

“For parents I would say something similar, let your daughter/son and their team-mates enjoy the games. Encourage, encourage and encourage, they don’t need you shouting at them if they do something wrong or make a mistake.

“Everyone does during a game and you will only put them off if you do that and with the games being so short compared to normal ones, it could make a huge difference.

“Your job is to be supportive, of them, their team and also the players ye might be hosting. Remember they are away from home, possibly for the first time, and some will be nervous about this.

“But above all just enjoy the weekend, it’s a great experience and one that you will remember all your lives."

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