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Kilkenny’s Katie Power credits Camogie for seeing her through this crisis

This week, Cliona sits down with Kilkenny’s Katie Power to discuss all things camogie and how it ultimately is what has helped get her through a crisis.

Ultimately, Katie Power’s parents gave up. Their daughter, along with brothers Martin and Jamie, had done so much damage that they finally threw their hat at it. Given the summer weather, it was easier to let the children hurl away, wreck the house, and fix the place up once the evenings began to shorten.

“Daddy only told me this recently,” Power says with a laugh. “We were back in primary school and we were on our summer holidays, so we’d be outside the house hurling every single day. He told me that we broke 14 panes of glass one summer, so they actually stopped fixing them. The weather was good so they decided it would be grand, and they just fixed them once we were all gone back to school. Maybe it was a poor reflection on our hurling!”

“My biggest influences are my parents,” Power adds. “Them and my two brothers. We’d all be wicked close and I don’t think I’d enjoy hurling as much without them being involved. There is a year between myself and Martin, and he’s still hurling, and Jamie doesn’t play but is involved with the underage teams. We grew up with dad hurling and being involved with training teams, so we grew up in the field. Then my mam is the secretary of the camogie club, so all five of us are down in the field in Piltown every night of the week.”

Power’s underage progress is not an entirely unusual story: she played on the boys teams as the club’s camogie section had disbanded for a time, but when it was reformed, she and they began to have success. They won their fill at primary school, under-14 and under-16 level — helped by future soccer international Karen Duggan who “is class at everything” — before being called up for the senior Kilkenny panel aged 15.

The county had won all 13 All-Ireland finals in which they had participated from the mid-70s to the mid-90s, but their fortunes had sharply turned south thereafter. Not since that era of the Downey sisters — Ann and Angela — had the Cats been a force in camogie, and Power says she was too young to have seen them hurl. Little surprise then that her heroes were from the men’s teams, particularly with Brian Cody’s troops hoovering up so many titles.
“DJ Carey, definitely,” Power says with authority. “He was my all-time hero and still is. We had heard of the Downeys but I was too young to see them hurling at their best. The buzz when DJ got the ball, and 99% of the time you knew he would do something unbelievable with it. I actually got a black Cooper helmet off Santa one year because DJ had one, and I didn’t want any other colour. It had to be black. I’m sure it’s the same with kids now, getting the same ones as TJ Reid or Seamus Callanan. But that’s all I wanted, and I’ll never forget it. I thought I was the bees knees!”

The black helmet hasn’t been seen in recent times due to Covid-19 but Power is still keeping her fitness levels up by working out at home. Life has slowed down for many people since the pandemic hit our shores, and that includes both of her jobs — one with Michael Lyng Motors, and the other working with TJ Reid Health and Fitness.

“Yeah, I do the calorie club starting at 6:30am, so I’m up at about ten to six,” she says. “I work in the garage then from nine to 5:30pm, and then I have training after that. So there’s a lot going on. I do nutrition with all sorts of people, some of whom are only starting out, or others who are looking for a lifestyle change. Some people might be on a waiting list for an operation but need to lose some weight before they can get it. All sorts of people. TJ is sound, he’s dead on,” she adds of the 2015 Hurler of the Year. “What you see is what you get.”

Power laughs when asked if he is the best player in the game, as if cornered. “It’s hard to say who is best, but TJ and Seamus Callanan and Pat Horgan — I think it’s between the three of them. They’re in a league of their own, so consistent.”
Would TJ compare with your hero, DJ?
“He’s barely under DJ,” she laughs. “TJ would be slightly ahead of (Henry) Shefflin. I better say that or I’ll get the sack!”

She considers 2008 her first full year with the county team, before solidifying her starting spot on their run to the 2009 All-Ireland final against Cork — who had won three of the previous four titles. “It was different,” she says of getting called up so young. “You don’t really have that so much now because of the speed and physicality of the game at senior level. You still have players who are class at that age but it might be 17 or 18 before they come in. We got to the All-Ireland in 2009 and I had a good year, I won an All Star and I was still only 18. I was thinking ‘this is great’ but we weren’t making semi-finals really in the years after and I was very inconsistent. I was still very young, and it took me a few more years to settle.”

Since 1994, Kilkenny have qualified for nine All-Ireland finals, losing eight of them. In the context of their stellar run before that, it has been a rotten run of results. Power is among a crew that has been on the wrong end of things on six different occasions, and she would be forgiven for getting dispirited. Yet what choice does she have only to continue on with the game she loves so much, and has in many ways built her life around.
Defeats in 2009, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018 and 2019 were bitter pills to swallow, with the sole day in the sun coming in 2016 when beating Cork by 1-13 to 1-9. She hopes one day to add to it.

“There was probably only a couple of us playing in 2019 that were there in 2009,” Power explains of those who have been through the mill. “Myself, Ann Dalton, Collette Dormer, Denise Gaule. The finals are different every time. There was just something different there in 2016. Maybe it was the freshness of Ann Downey coming back in (as manager) — it can be hard to put your finger on it. Maybe some days things just go for you. Like, we had good set-ups every year. Even last year, we played better than we did in 2016 but got beaten by seven points (by Galway). Other years, we were probably poor for maybe only ten minutes but ended up losing. Whereas in 2016, we didn’t perform as well as we could have but we won the game. Maybe sometimes you need that luck.”

Did all the pain endured make 2016 even sweeter?
“I was only thinking about it the other day. If I ever get the chance to finish up and win another one… it’s not like we didn’t appreciate it, because it was huge for us and Kilkenny after not winning it in 22 years and having Ann over us. But I think we were so in the bubble that maybe we didn’t look outside it. If I ever got the chance again, I’ll just maybe treasure it more for the three or four months and then park it. Whereas we won that and we were celebrating and going around with the cup, but were still looking towards the next year. We should have just enjoyed the present time a bit more. I won’t say I regret it, but looking back we thought we’d win a few more but it didn’t work out like that. We were kind of trying to do things properly in Kilkenny for the younger kids growing up. Camogie wasn’t going well when we were growing up, Ann’s team was gone, and we don’t remember any camogie teams being successful when we were growing up, our heroes were hurlers. So we were trying to grow the camogie in the county and… we probably should have been more selfish. It’s hard to explain.”

Of course, no stone will be left unturned in pursuit of future glory, and perhaps a few more panes of glass shattered.

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