Back in May, we ran a writing competition where we asked secondary school girls across Ireland to submit a piece on either:
- A lived experience they have overcome, and what they learned.
- A profile of a woman they admire.
- An opinion piece with a positive and empowering message.
Here at SHONA, we believe in the power of storytelling, of sharing our experiences to empower ourselves and those around us. Choosing a winner was so hard! So, we decided to share some of the entries over the next few months!
This piece was written by 16-year-old Amy, and she says “My article is an opinion piece on the importance of GAA to the people of Ireland and the benefits of involvement in sport for girls, in particular about camogie”.
The Sport That I Love
In my opinion, the GAA plays a vital role in bringing communities around the country together. Sport can give teenagers a great boost of confidence if they are experiencing self-doubt. Sport does wonders for the mental health of so many kids, teenagers and adults alike. Playing a sport gives people a sense of belonging, like they fit in somewhere while simultaneously helping them stand out. For these reasons, I think sport should be promoted to kids from an early age. Team sports offer people the chance to make new friends and work together to better themselves while also having fun. Sport doesn’t need to be all about competition and all about winners and losers really – it is all about the enjoyment and pride it gives people.
I play camogie and I believe there are multiple benefits and opportunities that I can get from playing. The most obvious benefit is fitness. We train two to three times per week. Not to mention it is a beautifully skilful sport that can be improved on with practice. It is the fastest field sport in the world and such a joy to watch and play. I have also made so many new friends through the sport both from Kerry and from other counties. We have a great camaraderie, and we just want to have fun playing a sport we love. Many players state that the sport is as important from a social aspect as a fitness aspect. We love training because we are having fun while improving our skills.
This pandemic has really shown us how important the GAA is to so many people, whether you are a player, coach or spectator. GAA brings communities together in a way that is very hard to replicate. You don’t need to be an inter-county star to appreciate the GAA. It is as important to a Grandad who is watching his grandchild at U6 training as it is to a seasoned inter-county footballer or hurler.
Playing camogie contributes to a feeling of self-confidence. Everyone on the pitch is equal and is there for a common goal (if you’ll pardon the pun!). It doesn’t matter if you are a nurse or a teacher everyone on the pitch is a player. When you step out onto the pitch you can put aside your worries and just immerse yourself in the game at hand.
Many players will reminisce about the team bus journeys. On the way to a game, there is great excitement and anticipation for the team for what is ahead. Whether you win or lose on that particular day, you are all in it together as a team – through the highs and lows.
And finally, if that wasn’t enough to convince you to be involved in team sports and specifically to play camogie, here are a few quotes from other camogie players about how wonderful the sport of camogie truly is. “I play camogie because it makes me happy. I have made so many friends through camogie. My sister plays for the Kerry senior camogie team and has played in Croke Park. This encourages me to practice so I can be like her and win an All-Ireland.” says Amy McCarthy, Cillard U16 player. “I play camogie because I love the sport so much. When you’re playing the sport it’s an escape from reality. My favourite thing to do is play matches during the summer.” says Alice O’Connell, Tralee Parnells U16 player.
While some people view camogie as merely an imposter of the men’s superior game, for me and for one hundred thousand fellow girls in Ireland, it is the game we live for. It is more than just a sport, it is a way of life. Look at Briege Corkery for example, with a staggering 18 All-Irelands and 16 All-Stars to her name she is arguably the most decorated woman and player in the GAA’s history. To summarise, it is hard to quantify the importance of GAA to our people. I further believe that girls’ involvement in camogie is a game-changer for their long term health and wellbeing.
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