THE bracelet an All-Ireland winning Cork camogie player had made from her medals was the inspiration behind her granddaughter’s first book, which she hopes will encourage more girls to play sport.
Emma Larkin’s granny was the legendary Maureen Hennebry (nee Cashman), of Blackrock, who won three in a row All-Ireland titles from 1939 to 1941.
One of her brothers was Mick Cashman, who played for Blackrock and was goalie on the Cork senior hurling team.
Chrissie Ahern, former Lord Mayor of Cork, was one of her sisters. Tom and Jim Cashman, who also played hurling for Cork, were her nephews.
Emma, an accountant who grew up in Boycestown (halfway between Carrigaline and Crosshaven), explains how the book came about: “I wanted to write something about my grandmother. She came from a family rich in GAA history, the Cashmans of Blackrock in Cork, and is even mentioned in a poem by the famous Irish poet, Patrick Kavanagh, entitled Camogie Match.
“While thinking of writing about Nana, I was also looking for books to buy for my daughter Isabelle, who was seven at the time. In my search, I noticed there were very few books about young girls playing sport. Isabelle loves so many sports, including football, soccer and athletics. There were plenty with boys as the main character, but not many for girls, and certainly none that I could see about a girl playing Gaelic Football. One day, I was thinking about the bracelet that my grandmother had had made from her All-Ireland camogie medals, and inspiration struck! I decided then that I would write my own book about a girl playing football, and the bracelet would feature, to bring a fun and magical theme to the book, Izzy’s Magical Football.”
Emma is a mum of four children — Damian, 19; Paddy, 10; Isabelle eight, and Robbie, five — and works as a financial controller of The Rose Hotel in Tralee. Married to Robbie, they live near Listowel where he’s from.
She has been working on the book since last January and admits it was sometimes hard to find the time with work and family activities.
“Sometimes I feel like I’m going to drop the ball somewhere! But I do enjoy both my jobs, and I also enjoy the writing process and all that goes with it, so it has been fun to do. I wrote the book quite quickly, once the idea came, the words started flowing! I actually self- published the book.
“When I didn’t hear back from any Irish publishers, I researched a lot about self-publishing and I joined ALLI, the alliance of independent authors.
“I also hired an illustrator, Paul Nugent, who was just fantastic throughout the whole process.”
Before Emma embarked on the book, she flexed her writing muscle by penning pieces on both park runs and the Gaelic4Mothers & Others initiative.
In a blog post, she wrote: “I started playing Gaelic4Mothers and Others football with my local club in 2012. I had three of my four children in the four years between 2009 and 2013, and it’s fair to say that getting time for fitness or anything at all really was a challenge in those years! When I look back, it does really seem like I was just muddling through and that old cliché, it is all a bit of a blur!
“I really do think, however, in hindsight, that the Gaelic4Mothers & Others initiative in our local club was my first step to rediscovering the great feeling that exercise brings, something that I had neglected in my twenties. In addition to getting me back exercising, it introduced me to an absolutely fantastic gang of women.
“By getting involved in my club and playing football, I soon started running as well, as lots of the women in the club were running. This lad to me becoming very involved in our local parkrun, and now I love running and wouldn’t feel right without getting a few runs in every week. It also meant, as my kids got older and started playing football themselves, that they got a great kick out of seeing me practising my skills in the back garden with them!
“This has all played a part in leading me to where I am now, writing and publishing a children’s book about girls playing sport, with the hope that it will encourage girls both to read and play sport, and to keep playing sport.”
As well as her Nana, Emma credits her mother as a big inspiration: “She always wanted myself and my sister to be independent women and to follow our own path in life.”
Already in the middle of her next book, which features Izzy playing camogie, she credits her husband with coming up with that plot idea and for also for being a fantastic support. In hindsight, Emma says she’s in awe of the fact Maureen and her teammates played camogie at such a high level at a time, in Ireland, where a woman’s role was predominantly to be a wife and homemaker.
“I wish I had asked her more about what it was like. We just took it as normal that Nana loved hurling and football — I even remember her in her eighties, taking my son Damian, her great-grandson, out in the back garden with a hurley and a sliotar!”
There’s a Cork, Dublin and Kerry edition of Izzy’s Magical Football which is available from emmalarkinbooks.com, on Amazon and bookshops