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02nd Mar 2019

‘You couldn’t really get away from it’: Katie O’Connor on life with the most involved GAA family in the country

Niall McIntyre

Katie O’Connor couldn’t escape it.

She was only a month old on that famous September Sunday of 1996, but she’s heard the stories right from the horses’ mouths. Her father George was the general in midfield on that luminous Wexford team that had them dancing at the crossroads and her uncle John was in the thick of that unforgettable Liam MacCarthy win too.

Growing up in Piercestown just after the watershed, a hurley was never going to be too far from her right hand and a sliotar was never going too far from her left.

But that’s exactly how herself and her siblings wanted it to be.

“You couldn’t really get away from it. Dad and my uncles John – well, all those brothers really – there’s lots of boys. Some of the boys are playing for Wexford and they’re all playing for the Martin’s,” she says to us before St Martin’s AIB All-Ireland senior club camogie final against Slaughtneil.

It’s fair to say there’s a strong O’Connor connection in the Martin’s club. On the lads’ side, brothers Jack and Rory and their cousin Joe are key members of the Wexford senior hurling team, Barry is one of the best footballers in Wexford while Harry was the Wexford under-21 captain two years ago.

From the camogie side of things, it’s even stronger. 22-year-old Katie is the captain while her sister Ella lines out at midfield. Their first cousins Ciara, Aisling and Sarah are also involved in the panel that will attempt to beat Slaughtneil and to bring the All-Ireland club camogie championship back to the sunny south east.

“It (growing up) was great. There were slaps every now and again, a few stitches. Those were actually from the girls cousins – Aisling, she’s on the team, she’s playing corner-back for us. We were certainly toughened up,” said the team’s centre back.

But the O’Connors are well supported by the other great gaels in the area too.

“Mags [D’Arcy] and Noleen [Lambert]they were my childhood heroes. I would have had their autographs on the back of my jersey when they were winning their All-Irelands, now I’m there playing with them. It’s a real privilege,” says O’Connor.

And former Wexford camogie manager JJ Doyle is the man moulding it all together.

“We up and coming but we were very young and inexperienced. When JJ came in with us first, we were getting beaten badly by the likes of Rathnure and Oulart. He came in about four or five years ago. He’s developed us, probably before our time, for what people expected. The stage we’re at now, I don’t think people thought we’d get there as quick as we have. That’s down to JJ, definitely.”

Now all roads lead to Croker.

“Yeah, there has been. It kind of continued along since the county final, then through to the Leinster final. Yeah, there’s a lot of stuff up around the village but they’re planning on putting up more this weekend. There was talk of painting the road, but I don’t know if they’ll be allowed to do that. They did it ’96 for the hurlers but they were different times. I don’t know if they’ll be allowed to do that but it’s going ahead anyway.”

And the whole of Wexford is behind them.

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With the tagline of “if she can’t see it, she can’t be it,” the 20×20 movement has three targets to reach by 2020:

  • 20 percent more media coverage of women in sport
  • 20 percent more female participation
  • 20 percent more attendance at women’s competitions and events

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