How a life on the farm inspired one of the greatest ladies GAA players of all-time
How good was Briege Corkery? She was so good.
So good that, at the age of 14, she dominated a county final to the extent that the opposing team were convinced she was a boy, and made a complaint to the county board to prove their point.
The complaint didn't go far. Briege Corkery did.
Such a furore might have put another person off but looking back now, Corkery laughs hysterically and as she takes us back to her unique childhood, either milking the cows or kicking football, you can tell that this self-confessed tomboy was always destined for great things.
Working on the farm kept her fit and it was on the pitch where she came to life. There was a speed in her legs, a power in her stride and an athleticism in every move that helped the Cork woman become one of the greatest ladies GAA players of all-time. Corkery, who won a record 18 All-Irelands and 16 All-Stars during an outstanding 12 year career, attributes her trademark dynamism to the active lifestyle she leads to this very day.
"Physically, I was either farming or doing stone masonry outside, so I don't think I really had to worry what I was eating," Corkery says in her Laochra Gael tribute show, which will air this Thursday night on TG4.
"I think every player needs to know their own body. When I started out first, I used to always keep skittles or a mars bar in my skort..."
If you wanted to measure Corkery's contribution to Cork's unprecedented success, you'd go straight to the year 2010. Having been first called up to the Cork senior football and camogie squads in 2005, aged 18, the Cloughduv player went onto win seven All-Irelands in the next four years.
It was in 2010, with a breather needed, when Corkery went on her travels and spent the year in Australia. In her absence, Cork were beaten in the camogie semi-final and in the football, they didn't make it past the last eight. It's hardly any coincidence that when Corkery returned the following year, the football title was back by the banks of the Lee.
Individual awards go with the territory for such influential players but with a heart set on team glories, this talismanic dual player didn't want anything to do with them.
"I don't really like talking about them because without the rest of the girls around you, you've nothing. So individual awards like that, I don't really take much notice of them to be honest."
In many ways, her last journey in red encapsulated her entire career. Going into 2016 Corkery knew that, with a family planned, this was going to be her final dance but after winning yet another double, there were no retirement statements or no big announcements.
"I never left the dressing room going this would be my last time. I just left the dressing room," she said.
— GAA JOE (@GAA__JOE) April 6, 2021
Handy that too, when the indomitable Corkery was lured back for a 2018 All-Ireland camogie win that she celebrated on the Croke Park pitch with her son Tadhg. Typically, having been a sub for that crowning glory, an ambitious Corkery doesn't over-play her role in the win.
"I always say I only have 17 and a bit medals."
You'd imagine that, with so many medals and so many victories, Corkery's achievements in the game could never be matched. In this sense, the final scene of her Laochra Gael programme, pucking across the field with her kindred spirit Rena Buckley, really hits home.
Cork had a golden generation and here were two of the very best.