IF YOU dread your morning commute, spare a thought for an Irish GAA player who spends up to ten hours commuting to matches several times a month.
Waterford native Patricia Jackman, 24, is currently halfway through her three-year PhD at the University of Lincoln in the east Midlands, where she works 8am-5pm daily in the office.
Having played camogie (Ireland’s biggest female sport) since the age of seven for her local GAA club Gailltir, and now joined in the senior inter-county team by her 16-year-old sister, Patricia is determined to continue playing, even if it means balancing her working week in England with flying back to Ireland for games every two to three weeks.
She was part of the Waterford team that won the All-Ireland Intermediate Camogie Championship last September in Croke Park, but success hasn’t come easy.
Speaking to The Irish Post, she said: “If I’ve got a game on the weekend I travel home on a Friday evening. Unfortunately, Lincoln isn’t close to many airports, so my journey involves a three-hour train ride and then an hour’s flight back.
“If I’m lucky I’ll fly back straight into Waterford, but otherwise it’s mostly Dublin. I fly from Birmingham, so all in all the journey can take nine and a half hours one way.
“On a Sunday, we typically play, and then I get a flight back to Lincoln in the evening. But it definitely wouldn’t be feasible every weekend.”
Moving to Lincoln was Patricia’s first time away from home, and she confesses that it was a big change.
But she’s enjoying the experience, both socially and academically, and while she hasn’t joined any Irish clubs or societies during her time here, she’s managed to visit her Irish friends in London to retain a sense of ‘home’.
In between exploring the historic city of Lincoln and conducting her extensive research into how athletes can obtain optimum psychological states during performance, the Camogie star explains that she still finds the time to train.
The prospect of having to train alone without her teammates though isn’t something that phases her.
“I mostly train on my own, I do pitch sessions where I run, go to the gym, and to practice my technical skills the best thing to do is to hit the ball against the wall to test your first touch of the ball into your hand as quick as you can,” she said.
“What I’m studying helps when I’m playing, as I can try out things from the knowledge I get and impart some of that within a team environment.”
Most recently, Patricia was named as one of the 23 inter-county players in Ireland to receive a third-level scholarship by the Women’s Gaelic Players Association.
The scheme, which is in its second year, encourages football and camogie players to pursue their studies, by supporting them with a scholarship of €850 each.
“It’s definitely helpful as it helps to offset any costs with the sport, in the men’s game they are at least given travel expenses, but that isn’t the case for us,” he said.
“I head back every two to three weeks, it depends on the fixtures, but it costs. So, this fund will definitely benefit the women who are both studying and competing.”