All Ireland-winning mum and daughter camogie duo team up in healthcare business

Former Armagh camogie player Aine French and her daughter Hannah, a member of the Orchard County's current All Ireland-winning Premier Junior Camogie side
Former Armagh camogie player Aine French and her daughter Hannah, a member of the Orchard County's current All Ireland-winning Premier Junior Camogie side

THE pandemic may have brought many unexpected health and financial worries, but for All Ireland medal-winning former camogie player Aine French it has also opened doors to new health-inspired opportunities.

The Lurgan mum-of-four – whose daughter Hannah recently joined her in the sporting hall of fame after herself becoming an All Ireland winner last December – has never been busier, recruiting for global wellness brand Forever Living, which manufactures and markets a range of aloe vera products.

And while some have been craving a new house or new dog during the double lockdown, others, she says, have discovered a new-found appreciation of work-life balance, with the aim of working from home – permanently.

A manager with the Arizona-based network marketing company, whose products range from aloe vera cosmetics to nutritional supplements and essential oils, Aine says she has seen a surge in interest from would-be entrepreneurs who want the best of both worlds.

“During the pandemic, there has been a huge growth in people wanting a more health-focused agenda as well as flexibility and freedom,” she says. “I don’t just recruit single mums; I have physiotherapists, psychotherapists, accountants and teachers all working and enjoying the benefits of Forever Living.

“What I have found is that people are more open minded about taking a look at a second income stream because of the uncertainty about the future – and that includes a lot of professional people.

“My daughter Hannah, who is a student teacher at St Mary’s [University College], Belfast, has also joined the team and brought a more youthful aspect to it, using social media for demonstrations and tutorials. She grew up using the products herself for all types of sporting niggles that come with playing camogie.”

A former nine-to-fiver with the Civil Service, Aine went on to run her own successful hat boutiques in Lurgan, Newry and Derry and lived “the perfect life” until everything “crumbled” around her following the collapse of her marriage 10 years ago.

Reuniting with her old camogie team-mates was her lifeline, along with her new job with Forever Living which enabled her to work while staying at home and bringing up her children as a single parent.

“I had always felt very fortunate, even though I faced various health challenges,” she says. “I was born with a hole in my heart but I think that made me all the more determined to play camogie.

“When I won the All Ireland title with Armagh in 1993, it was the best feeling in the world, but you never know what is around the corner.”

A shoulder injury prevented her from taking up the sport again following the birth of her children James (24), Grace (22) and twins Hannah and Olivia (20), but she became involved in liaison and coaching – and in the process rediscovered her zest for living.

“I was suffering a lot from anxiety, my home was up for sale and the privileged lifestyle and financial security I had known was disappearing,” she says. “It was a difficult time and there was a lot to deal with. Basically, I needed to find a job and it was the principal of a local school who contacted me about a work-from-home opportunity with Forever Living.

“I was a bit sceptical at first, because I wondered why she was doing that when she was a professional person but I took a chance and within 13 weeks I had created a full-time income for myself while enjoying a method of working that I had never experienced before.

“After my first couple of talks, I nearly felt like the old me again and I became braver. I felt like I was that girl again, defying everyone and saying I was going to win an All Ireland. I got a passion back inside me.”

Six years later and at the age of 50, Aine is delighted to have passed on the camogie baton to Hannah, a player with St Enda’s, Lurgan, and part of the winning Armagh [Premier Junior Championship] team who beat Cavan to win an All Ireland title in December.

“It was such an emotional moment for me because it was the same title on the same pitch where I won with the Armagh team against Galway back in 1993,” she says. “I feel like at last like I have come full circle.”

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