Sports Review 2023: Cork show resilience and fight their way to the mountain top

All-Ireland success was a deserved triumph for two special people, Matthew Tierney and Amy O’Connor

All Ireland camogie final, August 6th: Cork 5-13 Waterford 0-9

In a year filled with highs and lows – especially from a women’s sports perspective – for me, nothing could top watching Cork win the O’Duffy Cup after years of struggling to get over the line in painful encounters.

It wasn’t necessarily the victory that lit up my year. It was the story behind the team and their two leaders who, despite challenges being thrown at them in life, continue to defy the odds and set new standards across the county.

First, Matthew Twomey, who had to give up his playing career relatively young as he underwent treatment and surgery for a brain tumour. Scars will fade physically, but can take much longer to fade psychologically. He found joy in mentoring, coaching and teaching others, and understanding the vital role sport can play in a person’s life, especially when it can be cruelly taken from you.

Twomey has since moved on from the Cork manager’s job, but there’s no doubt his impact and legacy will remain.

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And a word for someone who is literally a captain, leader and legend. Full disclosure – Amy O’Connor and I were on a Quercus scholarship together throughout my time in UCC. I had the pleasure of sitting with her during one of the banquets. Her life story has remained with me.

At the time, she was studying pharmacy, juggling her camogie career and reminiscing on life as a soccer player for Ireland, where, throughout different age groups, she had 50 caps. Some players from that squad were at the Women’s World Cup; others, like Sarah Rowe, are still playing every ball sport possible and excelling.

Amy told me she didn’t drink alcohol and just enjoyed hanging out with her partner, Danny. She had bigger plans to try to fix the stereotype associated with her home area of Knocknaheeny, often seen as being disadvantaged.

She wanted those in her area to see that life in sport can be rewarding, full of life lessons and a place where everyone is welcome. Clubs like her own club, junior club St Vincent’s, provide the required outlet.

To be clear, the highlight isn’t necessarily the crowning glory. The highlight is the journey and the process, as they say. For Cork camogie, it’s about overcoming hurts, showing resilience and leaving the jersey in a better place.

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