At the beginning of the year, Marian O’Brien was Strength & Conditioning Coach for the Scariff/Ogonnelloe camogie team, now she’s the full-back as they go in search of their first ever All-Ireland Junior title.
Initially her goal was to have the team in tip top shape for the year ahead but now Marian finds herself competing to ensure she is at the same pace if not a level above her teammates. The transition from coach to player hasn’t been too difficult for her.
“It’s been a strange year. I started out doing strength and conditioning with the girls with no intention of playing, I retired three years ago but ended up jumping in for a drill I was doing because we were short a player then I got an itch for the game again and decided to come back which I never thought I would be back on the camogie field so it’s great I’m loving it. To think we’d be back in another All-Ireland Final is just, I never thought we would be and I’m so looking forward to Sunday I can’t wait for it come to go and give it a go”.
When they commenced physical training in January of this year the twenty eight year old wasn’t the most popular woman in East Clare. If she’s to continue with her recent good run of form at the weekend that will all be forgotten about by her teammates.
“I don’t think if you asked them back in January would they be singing my praises but we started last January with the focus on what we want to achieve this year, we’ve worked very hard since January there’s been massive commitment from the girls and I think it’s that commitment that has brought us as far as it has. I do think we’re at a good fitness level, a good strength and conditioning level and now we’re putting the finishing touches on the skills side of things and hopefully that will carry through on Sunday”.
Kildare side Johnstownbridge stand in Scariff/Ogonnelloe’s way of collecting an All-Ireland title. An All Star nominee in 2013, O’Brien prefers coming up against teams outside Clare as she tends to know less about them.
“To be honest I actually prefer it that way as a player, the local rivalries and knowing the girls you’re coming up against nearly makes it harder in a way, there’s some fantastic players around the county and some of them I don’t look forward to marking on a given day. I guess there is the fear of unknown and our management do their best to get as much information as they can and they tend to keep that away from us too, It’s very much the fifteen girls and the twenty five panel we’re going out to do our best and focus on our game and not worry too much about the opposition just go out do what we have to do and whatever fifteen face us it’s one against one fifteen against fifteen and go for hell for leather for the full sixty minutes and hope we come out on the right side”.
Three years on from defeat at this stage to Carlow club Myshall, Marian says this is a more balanced Scariff/Ogonnelloe team. With a bunch of younger players coming through the ranks, she reveals that she’ll be playing for a couple of more years at the very least. “The younger girls coming on it only pushes us older girls to work harder and fight for our place, it keeps everyone else on their toes, there’s such competition for places because everyone is trying so hard, we’re getting fantastic numbers at training, everyone wants to improve do better and fight for the jersey on their back.
“Not even this year if you look at the crop of girls that are coming along there’s only better players coming next year and the year after, it’s looking very promising for Scariff/Ogonnelloe and the same in any club around the county, it’s good and exciting, I won’t be retiring next year anyway” she joked.
There are nights when going to be training is the last place the Community Sports Development Officer wants to be. Those thoughts have been far from her mind in the lead-up to Sunday’s final and she believes any player that did have that mentality in recent weeks is in the wrong dressing room.
“I’d be lying like any player if I said there are some evening and you’re after landing home from work and you’re going ‘dear God we’ve training tonight and the running joke within the club for the past year has been ‘we’ve Pat Minouge up in Cravens and nobody looks forward to that because we know what’s ahead of us, we’re in an All-Ireland club final.
“If a girl isn’t bothered going out training in the last week or two she’s in the wrong panel, she’s turning up to the wrong game on Sunday. It’s like anyone that plays any sport, you want to win you want to achieve you want to do your level best and we’re at the height of it now it doesn’t need the lads to say anything to us we all ourselves and as a collective team really want this and will do everything we can to get over the line on Sunday” she told The Clare Herald.