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'There’s a terrible reputation but positive things do come out of our area' - Cork All-Star

Four-time All-Ireland winner Amy O’Connor says her home in Knocknaheeny suffers from anti-social problems.

CORK CAMOGIE STAR Amy O’Connor can’t explain how she managed to avoid some of the social ills that exist in her home place.

littlewoods-ireland-gaa-sponsorship-renewal Amy O'Connor says everyone has ability to change their path in life. Source: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE

Knocknaheeny is a suburban area situated in the hills overlooking Cork city. Elite athletes like O’Connor and Republic of Ireland international Denise O’Sullivan are both natives who have represented the locality with distinction in their respective fields.

O’Connor is a four-time All-Ireland winner with the Cork senior camogie team, while O’Sullivan has been a revelation for her US club North Carolina Courage.

She played an instrumental role as they completed back-to-back titles in the National Women’s Soccer League [NWSL] at the weekend, and was recently voted as the club’s MVP for the second year in-a-row.

She’s also heading to Australia for the off-season where she will link up with Western Sydney Wanderers FC as a guest player.

The sporting exploits of the two girls leaves Knocknaheeny residents with plenty to be proud about, but there’s various problems that are hurting them at home.

Issues relating to alcohol, drugs and poor education levels have halted the potential of people in the area, but O’Connor says everyone has the ability to break free. 

Both she and O’Sullivans are empowering symbols of that.

There’s a terrible reputation attached to Knocknaheeny but by good things like my playing camogie with Cork, Denise O’Sullivan is also from my area, she’s playing soccer at the highest level in America, positive things do come out of our area.

“We’re just going to have to try and work that bit harder to try and get more kids involved and show kids that you can go away and do something.

You don’t have to be pigeon-holed into this life in Knocknaheeny of this cycle over and over again.”

denise-osullivan-celebrates-after-the-game Denise O'Sullivan is also from Knocknaheeny. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

She continues:

“People will also say ‘was it sport that kept you away from it?’ and I couldn’t say that I would have went off the straight and narrow if I didn’t have sport because I don’t think I ever would have. I’m a very driven person and my Mam and Dad were never involved in anything like that so the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

It is a problem in my area, there’s no denying that but I’m very lucky that my Mam and Dad always had me involved in something and kept me on the straight and narrow.

“As I say, I was always driven myself, I would be a very driven person school-wise, soccer-wise, camogie-wise, I’d never be satisfied, I’d always want to be better.”

O’Connor has always expressed pride in her home place, and also in her club St Vincent’s. Over the years, she’s been hounded by people advising her to transfer to a senior club in order to evolve her skillset as a camogie player.

But she never bowed to the pressure. They may operate at junior level but she says that winning a county title alongside her own people will always be the ultimate achievement for her.

Silverware with another team could never eclipse that honour.

O’Connor recently won her first camogie All-Star award after impressing in the Cork attack in 2019.

She was the only Rebel to make the final cut, with just four players from her side getting a nomination after their three-in-row All-Ireland bid was halted by eventual champions Galway at the semi-final stage.

She’s disappointed that more of her team-mates weren’t included, but when she came home with her award, the St Vincent’s club surprised her with some red carpet treatment.

amy-oconnor-is-presented-with-her-award-by-kathleen-woods-and-stuart-trotter O'Connor receiving her All-Star award earlier this month. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“I knew that my my junior team, they wanted to see the trophy so I was bringing it up to the club to show the chairman. But, like, when I arrived there was a guard of honour, a piper, and hundreds and hundreds of people there.

It was unbelievable. No other club in the country would do it for their players. To be fair, it is a big thing. For our club, it was the first ever All-Star, male, female, football, camogie. So it was a huge deal for my club, but they are a huge honour and I think they should be celebrated more.

“So I’m very glad that I’m from a club that’s willing to do that for me. So yeah, it was brilliant. It was unbelievable.”

O’Connor is the first person in her family to go to college, and recently, she went even further on the education ladder by completing a Masters degree in Pharmacy.

She credits her parents for giving her the freedom to follow her own path in life when she was young, while also encouraging her to strive and dream big.

Her brother is now in college as he follows in his sibling’s footsteps.

The working world now beckons for the Cork forward as she gets ready to distribute her CVs. She’s not sure what her future holds for her, but she knows that her heart will always belong in Cork.

And in Knocknaheeny.

“I always have a burning desire to go back and do graduate medicine, I wouldn’t rule it out but I don’t know if I could put myself through that again. We’ll see with pharmacy. If I get into a big company, hopefully.

I’ll never leave Cork, I’ll always live in Cork. I’ve no desire whatsoever to leave so I’ll only look for a job in Cork.”

Amy O’Connor was speaking at the renewal of Littlewoods Ireland’s sponsorship of the GAA All-Ireland Hurling Championship, the Littlewoods Ireland Camogie Leagues and the GAA Go Games. 

First published today at 20.12 

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