Lynette Fay: After years of not participating in sport I've started camogie training

The Mary Ann McCracken Camógs train twice a week and welcome complete beginners to their ranks. A member of this newly formed club got in touch with me and asked me to 'come on for the craic'

Lynette Fay – it's never too late to try something new. Picture by Press Eye/Darren Kidd
Lynette Fay

ONE of the things I love most about getting older is that I seem to be up for trying new things. The fear of being judged has not disappeared completely, but I worry about it less, and give new things a go without being concerned about looking like an eejit. A couple of weeks ago, I agreed to give camogie training a go.

How did I end up going to camogie training? It’s all down to this column. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Mary Ann McCracken and how Belfast City Council would like erect a statue in her honour. I argued that Mary Ann might not approve of such adulation. However, she might be pleased that there is now a camogie team in north Belfast named after her.

The Mary Ann McCracken Camógs train twice a week and welcome complete beginners to their ranks. A member of this newly formed club got in touch with me and asked me to "come on for the craic".

I can’t remember willingly participating in PE at school. I tried to get out of it because I was very self-conscious. I have vague recollections of netball practice which I never enjoyed and one or two sports days, which I dreaded. One school friend recently reminded me of failed efforts at the ‘Poc Fada’.

For whatever reason, be it societal pressure, teenage insecurity, or a bit of both, I had it in my head that I was no good at sport, I wasn’t sporty, so I didn’t participate at all.

Fast forward to my later 30s. Somehow, I got into running. I managed to run a half marathon – once. When I am ‘in the zone’, I can run at a decent pace – a pace I didn’t think I had in me when I was a teenager. I rarely run alone. I run because I really enjoy the camaraderie and community that I have found in that world.

The same camaraderie and community was evident at camogie training. I am old enough to be the mother of some of the young women taking part. All abilities were evident, as was patience, kindness and good oul craic. No judgment, more of a ‘C’mon, give it a go, I’ve got your back’, attitude.

I was in awe of the fearless, skilled young women who scrambled for the sliotar and who were generous to us beginners.

I have always loved watching sport – all GAA, rugby, tennis, snooker, Formula 1 racing, athletics, swimming. I am in awe of the dedication of athletes who participate at the highest level, yet as a teenager I just didn’t have the confidence to give any of it a go.

The numbers of young girls involved in sport is still critically low, for various reasons. I hope that it the increased visibility of female athletes at local and national level will go some way to addressing this. ‘Can’t see, can’t be’ has been a brilliant campaign. Katie Taylor, Rachel Blackmore, Ciara Mageean – all excelling at the highest level, on the world stage will have an impact on the next generation.

At local level, we only have to look at women’s Gaelic football, camogie, women’s rugby. All these sports are on the up, with local clubs starting training sessions for beginners of all ages, making sport and participation accessible for more people.

Taking on something new when older can be more difficult because physically, we get weaker as we get older. Isn’t that how it goes? I was inspired by my mother who learned how to swim when we had fled the nest. I admire her for that.

During that first camogie session, I kept asking myself, ‘Why didn’t I do this years ago?’ Who knows, maybe I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much 20 years ago. Maybe this is exactly the right time for me to try and develop a few skills. If nothing else, I gave the highly skilled camogie players in my wider family circle a good laugh.

There is no doubt in my mind that I will never line out for any team and play a part in a match, and I am OK with that. If I can enjoy being active and confidently have a poc about with my daughter in a few year’s time, that’s good enough for me. It’s never too late to try something new.

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