In association with Irish Blood Transfusion Services
Briege Corkery’s name has become synonymous with success in the Rebel County.
In 2016, after winning her 17th All Ireland title (11 football titles and six in camogie), Corkery decided to step away from the inter-county scene. She later admitted that she wasn’t enjoying that part of her life at the time.
But like any driven sportsperson, the lure of competitive action eventually drew her back into the fold and she returned to the Cork jersey in August 2018, almost two years after her last inter-county match and just five months after the birth of her son, Tadhg. A number of weeks later, she won her 18th All Ireland medal, making her the most successful player in the history of Gaelic Games alongside fellow Cork legend, Rena Buckley.
Corkery won her first All Ireland medal in 2005 when Cork stopped Tipperary’s drive for three All Ireland Camogie titles in a row. The Premier County led by 1-10 to 0-8 at the break but the move of 18-year-old Corkery to midfield alongside Gemma O’Connor in the second half proved an inspired touch. The Cloughduv star scored a late point as Cork went on to win the final on a scoreline of 1-17 to 1-13. Having been burned by Tipperary in the previous two finals, it was a sweet success.
Two weeks’ later she was back in Croke Park for the All Ireland Ladies Football Final between Cork and Galway with Corkery securing her second All Ireland medal and her first taste of the Brendan Martin Cup.
What followed was a golden period in both codes for the Rebel County and Corkery was a central figure in their success. In football, they won the All Ireland every year between 2005 and 2016, except for 2010 when they were denied the six-in-a-row by a Sinead Aherne-inspired Dublin.
The path to All Ireland success in camogie was slightly more tricky. Corkery’s long-range point deep into injury time in the 2007 final was not enough to seal victory as Wexford denied Cork the three in a row. Corkery’s side returned to winning ways in 2008 and 2009 but they were thwarted by Wexford in 2010. As the Model County entered a period of dominance alongside Galway and Kilkenny, Cork would have to wait until 2014 for their next All Ireland Camogie appearance.
By the time the end of 2016 rolled around, Corkery had been involved in the inter-county scene for 13 years. As well as her 17 All Ireland medals, her mantlepiece was also packed with six Camogie All Star Awards, ten Football All Star Awards as well as the Texaco Player of the Year award from 2008. It’s not hard to imagine that motivation was a hard thing to come by.
She opted out of the football and camogie panels for 2017, though she continued playing at club level. Corkery later revealed on the Alan O’Mara’s Real Talks podcast that the enjoyment factor had faded for her.
“Last year for me, I didn’t enjoy it. I found myself getting that little bit more bitter,” she said.
“I found myself after big matches looking through the paper to see was my name on it and how well did I play, and I just started to question myself all the time.
“When you start questioning yourself, that means you’re not enjoying it as much. For me, that was it. Maybe bitter is a very strong word, but it was just those little things.”
However, she never announced her retirement and, as a result, the door remained open for a return.
Cork camogie manager Paudie Murray came knocking in early 2018 and when Cork opened their league campaign against Galway, it got her thinking. Three months later, her son arrived. Many would assume that the birth of a child might mark the end of an old chapter in the life of a sports star and the beginning of an entirely different one, but instead, Corkery was driven to return to fitness. She was driven by the power of one more; just one more season, just one more All Ireland, just one more opportunity to write her name into the annals of Irish sporting history.
On August 18, 2018, a rapturous cheer filled Semple Stadium as Briege Corkery was introduced as a 58th-minute substitute during their All Ireland semi-final against Tipperary. Although she didn’t feature in the final, that two-minute cameo ensured that Corkery received her 18th All Ireland medal and nailed down her status as a role model for any female athlete questioning a career in sport during motherhood.
As it transpired, the lack of game time in the final only inspired Corkery further to return to training for the 2019 season at the age of 32. Breaking records isn’t her motivation, rather a drive to win a medal that she feels she 100% earned. Even after all the success over the years, the hunger for one more remains as strong as ever for Briege Corkery.
‘The Power of One More’, in association with IBTS, is part of an ongoing series that looks to highlight athletes, teams and sporting personalities who have tasted success at the highest level of their sport, and what takes to go after one more victory.
IBTS believes in the ‘Power of One More’ as well, and want to encourage current and potential donors to bring one more person with them when donating blood this year.
For more information on how you can get involved, please visit us at: https://www.giveblood.ie/