Amy O’Connor is realistic in her assessment that camogie will never reach the heights hurling has in terms of nationwide popularity.
However, she is bang on the money when she talks of the perks that come with playing inter-county hurling or football with a men’s team as opposed to the lack thereof granted to women’s teams.
In this age of social media, it has become apparent that inter-county players can use sites like Instagram to promote themselves and the brands that back them and it seems as though every week a different player is gifted a sponsored car, something that O’Connor admits, makes her blood boil.
“It boils my blood, it just boils my blood” O’Connor told Pundit Arena.
“We put in the same hours and I actually think it’s a lot harder to be a female inter-county player than male… at times, at times I say and I’ll go back to that because there are girls on our panel from West Cork, travelling five times a week to training, it’s two hours and not a cent of petrol do they get, whereas the men are getting paid by the mile.
“They (male inter-county teams) are getting fed after training, we don’t get that, we got sponsored milk last year but the men are nearly getting steak.
“The cars drive me insane, no disrespect but you have men on a Cork or a Galway panel and they are getting cars and they are just making the panel, it drives me insane.”
There are positives that come with not being given the huge platform afforded to the male players in that they are sheltered from the ugly side of social media, something that O’Connor has seen first hand playing alongside Ashling Thomspon, one of the few players in women’s GAA who has been able to break the mould.
“I suppose on the social media side of it we’re kind of protected slightly because if a man goes out and has a terrible game there are 30,000 people ready to slate him on Twitter.
“I think Ashling Thompson does get an awful lot of abuse online because she has so many followers and is so well known but I think other players are protected from that, you kind of weigh up the positives and the negatives.”
Despite having four All-Ireland medals in her pocket at just 22 years of age, things could have been much different for O’Connor who represented the Republic of Ireland over 50 times throughout her teenage years.
She admits to having been pulled in different directions with regards to the potential possibilities soccer can offer as opposed to camogie, but in the end, it came down to one thing and one thing only, her dream was to play for Cork.
“I’ve played for Ireland over 50 times from underage all the way to U19” O’Connor said.
“We got to the European semi-final which was the one of the best things to happen me, I got to travel to a load of countries playing soccer, some of which I didn’t even know existed (laughs),
“I suppose when you are growing up everyone is trying to tell you what to do and you’re not an independent person yet, some people were pushing me towards going to the states on a scholarship, going to England to play professionally or semi-professionally but it was never really something I wanted to do.
“I never grew up wanting to be a surgeon, or a doctor, or a teacher or play international soccer with Ireland at senior level,
“But I always, from the moment I picked up a hurley wanted to be a Cork senior camogie player.”
It didn’t take O’Connor that long to realise her dream, she made her Cork debut whilst still a minor and since then has gone on to play an integral role in the Rebelettes juggernaut alongside many of the heroes she aspired to be like growing up.
“I was glad I got called straight up to the seniors, instead of playing intermediate first, it was a great achievement for me personally to be brought straight in from minor.
“I got to play with Jenny O’Leary, who I really wish had of stayed on another couple of years because she was still good enough, still fit enough, still well capable but players like that and Joanne O’Callaghan, I was glad I got to play with them because they were brilliant and I was in awe of them really.
“Orla Cotter, Gemma O’Connor, Rena (Buckley), they were who I wanted to be growing up and there I was on the pitch with them.
“I remember one day my dad came home from work, and he worked with Gemma’s dad who got her to sign a load of gear for me and I still have her hurley. She was my hero and now I’m playing with her for the last six years, it’s brilliant.”
Whereas ladies football is going through somewhat of a purple patch in terms of playing figures, attendances, and rising standards, O’Connor admits that changes need to be made within camogie in order to keep the game alive.
The ladies football All-Ireland final attracted a crowd of over 50,000 to Croke Park last year, whilst a little over 20,000 turned out for the camogie showpiece.
O’Connor believes changes need to be made but feels you can’t read too much into attendance figures when it involves a Dublin team.
“Having a Dublin team in a final will always help, if there was a Dublin team in a camogie final I do think the attendance would skyrocket.
“But at the same time, camogie is not doing itself any favours. It’s boring to watch, it’s too stop-start.
“The ladies football final last year was brilliant to watch, they both went out to win the game whereas in camogie an awful lot of the time what’s happening is teams are going out not to lose, they aren’t going out to win.
“I think there should be rule changes. Just more flow to the games, because it’s boring to watch and the games that are televised are terrible. The All-Ireland final finished 10-9 and probably seven or eight of them are from frees, no one wants to watch that and it has become a game of who has got the better free taker.”
One of Cork’s most stylish players Amy O’Connor is pictured at the launch of Littlewoods Ireland’s #StyleOfPlay campaign for the National Camogie Leagues. The fashion, sportswear, electrical and homeware retailer will be shining a light on the players this season by live streaming 6 games during the Littlewoods Ireland National Camogie League, bringing the sport to over 100,000 fans.