Women In Sport: This Sunday's All-Ireland Camogie Final Is Extra Special For Galway’s Jessica Gill
It’s a pretty special week for Galway player Jessica Gill as the 25-year-old gears up to represent her county on the grandest stage at Croke Park in the All-Ireland camogie final against Cork this Sunday.
The talented player from Athenry has been playing camogie for 18 years and is relishing the challenge of Sunday’s big game.
It hasn’t all been easing sailing for her down through the years though, and she caught up with Her.ie to look back on her career to date.
“It all started with my best friend Noreen Coen. I used to practically live at her house and her Dad, Des Coen used to have us out morning, noon and night playing on the green.
“We didn’t go anywhere without our hurls. Also my Dad, Mickey used to bring us everywhere in his van, no matter where or what time training was he would have us there.
“I played my first championship game with Galway in 2005 at wing back. On top of that, we had some great wins with Athenry, winning four county titles back-to-back, and the Kilmacud 7s. I also won a minor All-Ireland and got an All Star in 2008,” she continued.
“Camogie is part of my life. I honestly know no different and I love playing it. It is a huge commitment but it’s what I love and choose to do."
“I have a little boy, Jack, who’s 18months old. I suppose it has been a huge change for me personally, having a baby and working and then trying to train during the week.
“There are days I don’t see him only for a few minutes in the morning as I go straight to training from work and that’s really tough as you start to feel guilty that you aren’t spending enough time as you should be but my partner, Stix (whose real name is Jonathan!) has been a great support.
“I have great family and friends around me too and that’s so important. I work for the main sponsor of the team, Supermacs and Pat and Una McDonagh have been a huge support to me as well."
“There have been other challenges too. At 19 I did my cruciate which was devastating.
“I don’t think I realised at the time how serious an injury it was and the amount of rehab that is involved in getting back to play again.
“It’s really a year before you are back fully. Then in 2012 I did my other cruciate and I was absolutely heartbroken as I suppose I knew the road that was ahead.
“There is so much rehab you have to do with a cruciate knee injury and I will never forget the 6am starts to get gruelling rubs and then downstairs to do my rehab.
“I had to go in twice a week and I used to absolutely dread it."
“I was back then in 2013 training with Galway (the year they won the All-Ireland final) and come the summer, I had to leave the panel due to a ‘knee’ injury - and nine months later little Jack was born!
“I still remember a few of the girls texting asking was I okay and how they were hoping it wasn’t too serious with my knee and I felt awful as it was only early days so I couldn’t tell them I was expecting!
“I watched the 2013 final from the stand and it was hard in a way as I would have loved to have been part of it but I was so delighted for the girls as they really deserved it and especially my club mate Therese Maher who gave so much to Galway camogie and finally got her reward that day.
“I look back now and I know it’s a cliché but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Jack has changed my life for the better and hopefully Sunday we will get that All-Ireland medal and bring the O'Duffy cup back West and it will all be worth it."
“People often say ‘fair play’ to me, but it never entered my head that I wouldn’t go back after injury and after Jack.
“After doing my second cruciate I never thought "I’m going to hang up the boots!" that was never an option. I wanted to get back more than ever as when you are watching games from the line it gives you the motivation to work hard and get back playing as it’s so hard to watch from the line.
“I just wanted to get back and play and after having Jack I wanted to get back training too.
“It was tough but I wanted to get back playing with Galway. At the end of January I got a call from the Galway intermediates to go in with them so I was delighted and went in with them but my main aim was always to get back senior."
“By the end of February I got a call to go back with the seniors and I was over the moon and as they say, the rest is history!
“It’s an absolute honour to play for Galway and I can’t wait for Sunday – hopefully all the hard work will pay off.
“Now, I’d just ask people to come and support us. We are all so proud to represent Galway and wear that jersey with pride, we train and put in all the sacrifices that the lads do and are playing at the highest level.
“Nothing will be left out on that field on Sunday, but as a woman playing sport I would love to see a huge crowd from Galway supporting us."
“I love camogie and every single player is top class that will line out for all sides on All -Ireland Sunday, so to have your county behind you would be just a massive support.
“We want to encourage the next generation to pick up a hurl and know that someday they too can play for their county at the highest level in Croke Park.
“This Sunday will be a brilliant battle as Cork are All-Ireland champions but I think we’re ready.”
The All-Ireland senior camogie final kicks off at 4pm in Croke Park on Sunday.