KATRINA PARROCK, A four-time All-Ireland winner and three-time All-Star, had once reached a point with camogie where she couldn’t bare to lift a hurl.

Katrina Parrock playing for Wexford in

Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

She’d been playing the sport since she was three. Along with soccer, the small ball game was a twin passion in her life that brought her to the highest level of sporting achievement. 

She regularly frequented Croke Park on All-Ireland final day.

But after 11 years of inter-county service, she needed a big break away from it. The fun had fizzled away.

That was back in 2017, and at the time she hoped to have a sport-free year.

But then Wexford Youths came calling to coax her back to football. That unexpected switch proved to be a fruitful one for Parrock as she ended that year with three major titles; an FAI Cup medal along with National League and Development Shield honours.

Parrock also scored the only goal in that FAI Cup decider against Peamount United and capped of the day by picking up the Player of the Match award.

Parrock wheels away after scoring the only goal of the 2017 FAI Cup final.

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

A brief attempt at rugby followed only to reach an abrupt end after being “eaten alive by midges” at a training session.

The invitation to come back to camogie was never far away. Manager Kevin Tattan had been reaching out to her over the last few years, inquiring about a comeback and the 2021 season seemed like the right time for her to embark on her second coming.

“I suppose at the time, I wasn’t ready,” she tells The42 about those previous occasions when she was asked to come back to Wexford camogie.

“I maybe wasn’t fit enough as well, now I feel I’m fitter than I have probably ever been. I’ve been putting in a lot of hard work and it’s really paid off.

“I’m really enjoying it at the minute and look, I suppose that was kind of the turning point. And then about a month ago, I said I’d go out and puck the ball around. I couldn’t even look at a hurl [before], it was gone that bad that I just had to take a step away from it.

“I got the hurl out then and it really brought it back to me and I was really enjoying it. I suppose Kevin’s always been on to me last year around Christmas, and a few of the players as well, to see would I come back again.

“Look, I think the love has never left me for camogie. It’s great to be back and I’m really looking forward to the year ahead.”

The ambition for the year ahead is clear for Parrock – bring her 11 years of inter-county experience to the table and allow the future generations to benefit from all her tricks and insight.

Inspiring younger girls to pursue their dreams in sport is a major theme of her life and it beams down the phone during our conversation. She wrote a fascinating piece last year entitled ‘Looking Ahead’ in which she recounted the many accolades she earned during her career and her hopes to present herself as an encouraging example for young female athletes.

That philosophy will be even more crucial to the Wexford players as the county continues its rebuilding process. The inter-county landscape is different to the one that Parrock came into as a teenager.

After just turning 17, she was sprung from the bench in the 2007 All-Ireland final where she helped her side to a victory over Cork. She wishes she could remember more about that milestone in her career after then-manager Stella Sinnott cautioned her to be ready to come on during a warm-up before the game.

An All-Ireland three-in-a-row followed between 2010 and 2012 in what was a golden period for the county.

Parrock was part of Wexford’s three-in-a-row winners.

Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

But success is often cyclical and Wexford’s time in the spotlight came to an end soon after. After Parrock stepped away in 2017, she had to watch much of their struggles as a fan.

“Look it was hard to see and read [about]. I watched a few of the games and it wasn’t good to see that but we were at the highest we could ever be. We had such a great team at the time that achieved the three-in-a-row.

“At the time, we realised that this wasn’t going to last forever. We always knew that it was always going to come to an end at some point because we need to rebuild. The players aren’t going to be there all through those years, and there did come a time where Wexford camogie is rebuilding and we’re seeing it now.

“Kevin is doing a huge job with that. It’s a very young side and if I can bring anything to that team, probably the bit of quality that I am bringing to the team is my experience of playing in All-Ireland finals.

“Anything I can bring that will benefit the team, I’ll be happy with, along with young girls growing up. If I can help them along, I’ll be happy with that.”

Parrock officially stepped away from the Wexford dressing-room in 2017, but she also took time out in 2015.

Her mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and Parrock felt the time she was giving to sport would be better spent at home by her mother’s side.

She wrote about this dark time for the family in her ‘Looking Ahead’ piece, in which she said, “I needed to be at home looking after her, instead of all over the country playing matches.”

Her mother’s ill-health even prompted her to question the amount of quality time she had previously afforded to her family.

“My mother was always a huge follower of me and she always supported me in every sporting aspect of my life,” Parrock explains.

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“She got breast cancer in 2015 and I suppose I had taken a lot from her and her fighting spirit. Thankfully, she’s doing really well now.

“So I suppose when she got sick, it made me realise [that] I was probably living in a bubble when I was playing with Wexford all those years and I didn’t realise everything around me, and I didn’t appreciate my family the way I should have.

“Maybe that’s why I concentrated more on my family more so than the game, and maybe that’s where I fell out of the enjoyment bracket with playing.”

In ‘Looking Ahead,’ Parrock also writes about how she would often drive her mother to St Vincent’s and St Luke’s Hospital for treatment, leaving their house for appointments at 5am.

Still quite young herself at the time, Parrock was taking on the role of the carer as her mother began her long journey to recovery.

But she happily accepted the responsibility knowing that she needed to put her sporting life on pause in order to give her full attention to home life.

“I suppose I appreciated everything she had done for me throughout my life and I felt like I owed her something. It was the least I could do for her.

“I would have done a lot in the house and would have had the house done up for her so when she came home from St Luke’s and St Vincent’s [hospital], that everything was in order for her to try and make her as comfortable as she could be.

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“That’s what I had to do and that would make her happy.”

Wexford will get their Division 2 league campaign underway on Saturday afternoon with a home tie against Kilkenny [throw-in, 2pm]. After a turbulent time for the sport which included threats of a player strike over issues related to the season’s format, competitive matches will thankfully be under the spotlight again.

Parrock is about a month into the second phase of her Wexford career. After a five-year hiatus, she says she’s returning to a sport that has developed into a “professional outlet” compared to what she experienced during the earlier years of her time with Wexford.

It all bodes well for the players who are coming up through the ranks and Parrock is looking forward to playing her part in furthering that evolution.

“I think it’s very important for young girls growing up that if they want to visualise something that they want to achieve in life, I think that is so important for girls. It worked for me and I’m very lucky and very grateful of it.

“But definitely, if I can help any young girl out there achieve what they want to achieve, I’ll be happy.”

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