Theatre of Dreams
Anyone who grows up with the GAA knows about Croke Park. It’s where legends have played, where champions are crowned and where history is made. Every player dreams of playing there. There is something magical about it.
For former Cork Camogie captain and Littlewoods Ireland ambassador Anna Geary, it is the ‘theatre of dreams’. Cork ladies won the All Ireland in 2014, when Anna was captain. She climbed the steps of the Hogan Stand that day to lift the O’Duffy Cup, a moment that she describes as feeling that she could never replicate in her life again.
What are your earliest memories of Croke Park?
2003 was my very first time in Croke Park, I was 16 years old. It was my first year on the Cork senior Camogie panel. I had been captain of the Cork under 16 team that had won the All Ireland a few weeks previous, and I had been invited on to join the panel.
It was a dream come true because I was sitting in the dressing room beside girls that were my heroes. I had gotten the train the previous year to watch these girls play in an All Ireland and now I was playing alongside them.
It was just that feeling of pure, raw exhilaration. All my Christmas’ had come at once. That was the first time I played in Croke Park and I’ll never forget it.
2005 was then the first year I got to start. I got to do the walk around the pitch beforehand, I had my place in the dressing room and the warmth up area.
I will never forget walking out during halftime of the match that was on before us, and the noise! The sheer noise! I remember thinking if I want to roar for the ball, will anyone even hear me?
Who has been your toughest opponent while playing in Croke Park?
I have played against a lot of people down through the years! Úna O’Dwyer, I played against her when I made my senior debut and she was definitely one of the stall worths of the game!
I think in more recent years, Ursula Jacob and Kate Kelly would have been two of toughest. We would have played with each other right up along but you know what, they made me a better player as well. The better the player I was on, the better player I became because I knew I had to play my best.
In a really weird way, even though I cursed them at the time running around after them, they helped me to become the player I was too. We are good friends, Ursula and I would still laugh about things that happened. That’s what Camogie is all about, that’s why you play.
Do you feel that playing in Croke park is different to other stadiums?
Oh yes! This is the theatre of dreams really. I love Semple Stadium in Thurles as well, it has also been a place I played a lot more in than Croke Park. Croke Park was the big one if you were playing there, the match was a big deal. Playing in an All Ireland is the goal, but playing in an All Ireland in Croke Park is the dream.
I would have played All Ireland’s here with my club Milford as well and let me tell you when you are looking up into the stand and you know all the faces that are wearing the blue and white, it’s just such a special moment!
The kids that are here for GAA Go Games with Littlewoods Ireland, are so lucky. There are adults that have played their entire Camogie and Hurling careers and have never got the chance to run out in Croke Park. The kids are doing it here today, I think we are really lucky we have the Go Games, it gives everyone a go.
It could be the reason that those kids continue to play, because they remember the feeling of what it felt like to play in Croke Park, and they then want to replicate that feeling again.
Would it make you more nervous playing there?
Yes. The vastness of Croke Park, driving under the Stadium with the bus, the dressing rooms are so big. Everyone talks about playing in Croke Park. There are other stadiums that have been incredible to play in, but playing in Croke Park is a memory in itself.
Never mind what happens in the game itself but getting to Croke Park and getting the opportunity to play here are some of my best memories. Lifting the cup in 2014 in the Hogan Stand, I have done amazing things in my life, but I don’t think I ever replicate that again, it was a phenomenal moment.
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