IT WAS a historic occasion on Tuesday for Cork Camogie as players, mentors officials, families and friends were welcomed to Áras an Uachtaráin for a reception hosted by President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina.
The occasion was to honour the All-Ireland Senior and Intermediate championship winning teams who were watched by President Higgins when he attended in Croke Park last September. He was so impressed by that double-header that he extended an invitation to the Áras As guests arrived to the Áras they were welcomed by the president’s staff for a reception and everybody was free to mingle around the impressive reception rooms and area. From here guests lined up and were introduced individually to President Higgins and Sabina.
The general consensus from everybody was that the President was well-versed in all things about the teams and indeed the clubs. On several introductions, he made references to different former players on the hurling fields to members of their clubs.
After the formal introductions were completed it was back to the reception rooms where the Uachtaráin gave a wonderful welcoming address. In his speech, he paid tribute to players, mentors and volunteers and he had a special mention for county board who he said were vital to the lifeblood of our Gaelic games.
“Your experiences and achievements will serve to inspire the imagination of others. On behalf of everyone who loves sport, everyone who followed with great interest and pride the exciting and exhilarating All-Ireland camogie final between Cork and Kilkenny in Croke Park last September, it is both a great pleasure and an honour to join with you and celebrate Cork camogie team’s marvellous achievement in winning the All-Ireland camogie titles, one of the largest sporting events in Ireland.”
He went on to say that the 2018 All-Ireland final was a memorable and thrilling game from beginning to end. He said this was most evident to him at the time, not only in the final heart-stopping moments of the game when Orla Cotter remained calm and composed under pressure to score the winning point that secured Cork’s fantastic win, but that he was also struck by the great teamwork.
“This would not be possible if not for the dedication and commitment that you have all given and the hours of training, often in very cold and inclement weather that this beautiful country of ours offers us.”
He had particular words of praise for teamwork and unity which he said is paramount in everyday lives, and he had a special word for the Murray family about their roles in Corks win.
“It also strikes me how wonderfully typical the family connections in Gaelic games are and I am delighted to see that great example in the Murray family with Aoife Murray, goalkeeper and Captain, Paudie Murray, manager, and Kevin Murray, selector; a truly winning combination.”
He had huge praise for the unity which exists within both panels and made particular mention of this.
“It was very clear to me on that exciting All-Ireland final day in September that yours is a team of great unity and mutual respect, always encouraging and championing each other. Leadership, working as a team, and respect for others are important themes of Gaelic Games and indeed of all sports, and these are qualities that translate right across into community work and everyday life regardless of where you live.”
President Higgins also made references to the challenges sports people face as they strive to get to the top in their chosen sport.
“You as members of the Cork Camogie teams possibly know more than anyone else that in sport there is never certainty about the outcome, there are no certain winners, but there are always courageous and committed athletes. That is part of the challenging journey each participant in sport must travel, one of the challenges they face and overcome again and again, and it does not get progressively easier.
“All of you know only too well how tight the margins are between winning and losing, at the level of competing in excellence, how much courage it takes to face up to those margins, to accept the risks, to commit to the ethic of competing, of being tested and accepting the outcome whatever it is.”
He told the players how proud they should be of the participation they make and the many sacrifices, to be the very best. He said their experiences and achievements will serve to inspire the imagination of others making them inspiring role models for Ireland’s young women.
The President also spoke about the recent celebrations for International Women’s Day where at Áras an Uachtaráin and both himself and Sabina are delighted to support the ‘20x20 If You Can’t See It, You Can’t Be It’ initiative. It’s a movement which he said will shift cultural perception of women’s sport by committing to increase media coverage of women in sport by 20% because if she can’t see it, she can’t be it.
Manager Paudie Murray replied on behalf of Cork Camogie and thanked President Higgins and Sabina for the wonderful genuine warm welcome afforded to everybody, he said it was truly an honour to be invited and said this will push the sides on in their bid for three in a row.
On behalf of Cork Camogie Paudie made a presentation of a painting of UCC to President Higgins who drew huge applause when he held it up and said “Up Cork”.
A wonderful occasion and a day to be remembered as a special on for Cork Camogie who can be proud of all they have achieved and continue to do both on and off the playing fields.