CAN Róisín McMahon predict the future? It seems that way. As night closed around Newmarket on Saturday, The Clare Champion visited the McMahon family ahead of this weekend’s Munster final. Róisín captains the team from centre-back, while her sister, Laura, wears the number three jersey. Their mother, Veronica, played for club and county, while their father, Seánie, has just retired from refereeing. A Newmarket club hurler himself, their brother, Pádraic, is a journalism student and often writes on camogie, although he admits that he sometimes holds back a bit on giving credit to his sisters.
Just before we retired to the McMahon family front room for the on-the-record chat, Róisín predicted that her mother would not delay in mentioning that she won an All-Ireland medal with Clare.
“I won an All-Ireland in 1981,” Veronica chimed, seconds after the dictaphone was switched on.
Róisín and Laura were next seen rolling around the floor, unable to free themselves from uproarious laughter. Even Seanie threw his eyes up to heaven. He hadn’t expected his wife to mention it immediately.
“Do you want me to get it and show it to you?” Veronica asked eventually, deciding that if her family wouldn’t back her, she’d come out swinging.
One of Veronica’s team mates in that team 34 years ago was Carmel Bohannon.
“A great friend of mine,” Veronica confirmed. Carmel was well able to handle Róisín when they met on the football field a couple of years ago.
“When Róisín came back from Madrid, she was cleaned by Carmel,” Laura recounted, sounding a touch too gleeful.
“I hadn’t ran in two months and I was just off the plane. They said, ‘you’re going in full-forward, it’s ok. You’re marking someone the same age as your mam’. She cleaned me out,” Róisín admitted.
Originally from Ruan, with whom she won a Banner Cup medal in 1982, Veronica played for Newmarket once she moved there.
“I’ve been involved since I came down. I won an intermediate,” she revealed, perhaps hoping to move on from the All-Ireland revelation.
“She scored a hat-trick against Kilmaley. She had a ‘yahoooooo’ celebration,” Róisín maintained.
Incredibly, Veronica’s opponent in that intermediate final is still togging out.
“The girl I was marking that day, Marie Hehir, is still playing with Kilmaley,” she said.
Veronica feels that her daughters, including Sharon who is travelling in Thailand, are adept at not praising themselves too much.
“If I wasn’t at a game, which was seldom, and I asked them how did they play, they’d say ‘not great’. Then you’d be talking to someone and they’d say ‘the girls were brilliant’. I’d have been the same. I’d never be big-headed,” Veronica insisted.
“God, no…..,” Seanie murmured at hearing this.
Eventually, Seanie was afforded the chance, by his wife and family, to say something. Sport is the thread that runs through the core of the McMahon family.
“It’s our life really, hurling and camogie. If we’re not going to Newmarket matches, we’re going to UL or Mary I games. It started with Sharon. She played with Mary I and got on the Clare set-up then. Róisín followed and now Laura. Pádraic is following suit as well, so hopefully he’ll get his rewards as well,” Seanie said.
These days the McMahons stop themselves from arguing about camogie in front of Pádraic in case they end up reading about what was said.
“We agree to disagree, especially with an aspiring journalist in the house. We have to be very careful,” Seanie whispered.
“We have to watch what we say,” Laura advised, while Veronica added her take on the issue.
“What I notice with the journalist is that coming home from a match, the two girls might have played well but only one of them can be praised. He can never say that the two of them were good,” she maintained.
“When they deserve praise, they get it,” Pádraic claimed, realising that he was on his own in this one.
Newmarket played Lismore in the Munster intermediate final in 2013. Laura’s overwhelming memory of that game isn’t ideal.
“I thought I could outpace Róisín but I ended up tripping her. One of the crucial scores came from that so I’ve learned to take my orders from her now. Sure, she’s the captain anyway and it’s been that way for so long, I can’t remember anyone else as captain almost,” Laura reflected. It later emerged that Róisín’s vocal chords are fully operational.
“You have no choice but to hear her, she’s so loud,” Pádraic winced.
“She missed our U-21 semi-final the weekend before last and everyone was saying that it was the first match I’d played where Róisín wasn’t on the sideline or on the field roaring. She has a very distinctive voice,” Laura feels.
At this juncture, Róisín felt compelled to intervene. She is adamant that she’s not the only McMahon who can be heard.
“Laura roars as well. We’re told that we have to listen to Laura from full-back because she can see everything,” Róisín explained.
“As teachers, we work on our voice projection,” Laura pointed out. She is on placement, teaching PE and English at St Munchin’s in Limerick, while Róisín teaches fifth class at St Conaire’s in Shannon. Sharon teaches at Clonara National School.
As for the shouting issue, the dispute escalated.
“The four of them are all loud at matches. I try to go to the other side of the field,” Pádraic claimed.
“I’m not loud at matches, Pádraic,” Veronica insisted.
“Before the last match, I had never seen a referee have to tell a photographer to get off the pitch. Veronica went in to question a decision. Butter wouldn’t melt…” the son retorted.
“Róisín got the butt of the hurley into her eye. He said it was a 50/50. She normally doesn’t go down crying. It had got black straight away and I have it on the camera. The only thing is I have glasses and I couldn’t go back to see it until I came home,” Veronica ventured.
Seanie was rather silent during this eruption. So does he keep to himself during matches when his daughters are in the middle of it?
“HIT IT, HIT IT, HIT IT,” Róisín roared by way of setting the scene.
“I’m his worst critic. If I’m beside him, he goes ape. There was a fella here last week and he said he was never going to sit beside Seánie at a match again,” she said, before Seanie had a chance to get a word in.
“I’m normally not very vocal but the fact that Carol O’Leary was sent off after 10 minutes, I was more vocal than I would normally be,” was his rational explanation.
This year’s county camogie final was played on the same afternoon as the football county final and also clashed with Ireland’s Rugby World Cup match. The fixture pile-up didn’t exactly pass unnoticed in the McMahon family.
“I wanted to watch the rugby match this year anyway, so I was aware of that,” Laura said when asked if players were concerned by the timing of the final.
“I was more focused on the game,” Róisín smiled primly.
However, their mother had very strong feelings on the fixture.
“For Inagh-Kilnamona it was hard because Margaret Lafferty had her husband honoured in the 25-year football team and her son, Damien, was playing for Miltown. That shouldn’t happen. Families or a club shouldn’t have to make a choice. There should be a set date for the camogie and it should be played in Cusack Park,” she said, adding that the camogie final day presentation could be better.
“When they are honouring the 25-year camogie team, half the people don’t see them. Below in Clarecastle, I didn’t see half of them this year. You go to the trouble of getting all those people there… I thought it was bad form anyway. They’re talking about promoting women but if they’re doing that, they’re knocking it straight away,” Veronica believes.
As Saturday approaches, Róisín and Laura will miss Sharon, who has won senior club championship medals. They know she’s having the time of her life but they’d love to have her soldiering with them on Saturday.
“She was definitely gutted to have missed the county final. She came back from a cruciate injury last year and then she had a hip operation. I think the first time she missed home was in the build-up to the county final and you’d miss her around,” Róisín said, clearly driven by the desire to deliver for club and family in Kilmallock on Saturday.