DCU student Kate Kenny plays for DCU’s O’Connor-cup winning football team and the Ashbourne-cup winning camogie team, while studying the Integrated Masters in Biomedical Engineering. In this piece, she explains how DCU Sport and being around like-minded people is helping her to balance and excel at both.
Can you tell us how you first got into GAA?
In our family, it was always a part of life. My dad is mad into football, he played it for years. I’m the youngest, I have two older sibling and my older brother was very involved with football and hurling. Every evening I’d tag along to watch training and we all went to the matches. Once I was old enough, I was going to training too. It was inevitable.
What did you like about it?
I’m very competitive! If I lost any sort of competition, there were tears. So sport was a good outlet for that. I always loved being active, and football and camogie were great for getting me out of the house and moving.
Tell us a bit about the teams you play for?
I play football for Naomh Ciarán, that’s my local club. I played hurling with the boys until I was 12, but after that you have to change to the girls’ team. There was no girls’ camogie team in my town, so I had to play for the nearby team, St. Rynagh’s. They’re actually major rivals of our local team, so my family weren’t sure about cheering for us! At first they were only cheering for me, but by now they’ve come around to cheering for the team.
I played underage football and camogie for Offaly, but I haven’t played with them since I was injured last year and had to take a step back. It’s not sustainable for me to play for Offaly at the moment between my course and college sport, and because I’m based in Dublin.
What have been your proudest sporting moments so far?
We recently won the O’Connor Cup, which was probably one of my best moments in football. We were favourites last year but were knocked out in the semis, which was really disappointing, but it made the win this year even sweeter.
In camogie, our team won the Ashbourne Cup last year, which is the main college camogie competition. DCU have never won before, so it was great to be part of that team making history.
My club won back-to-back intermediate all-Irelands, and that was really special because it was during Covid, so it was one of the few things people could actually go to. Training during lockdown was very strange when we were isolated. Usually, you rely on your manager to keep you on track, make sure you’re prepared as a team, but when you’re on your own you wonder if you’re doing enough. I also struggled with motivation during lockdown because you don’t know when the next match will happen, it’s hard to train with nothing to aim for. So, it was great for that to pay off and have something to celebrate.
What are your goals for the coming year in GAA?
In camogie, we were beaten in the semis this year, so it would be good to get that win back.
“In football, we won the O’Connor cup this year and that was great, but winning is really just the cherry on the cake. The whole weekend was so good, we had such a great time as a team.”
I suppose my goal is to keep playing for the team, because making good memories and getting to know people is the real goal with college sport. With your club team, you’re always playing with the same 30 or so girls, but the college team, and the staff, change every year, so I get to know different people from all over Ireland.
Sometimes you end up playing on the college team with a rival of your club team, which is really interesting. You think you know someone from playing against them, but when you’re on a team with someone you get to know them as a person and become friends. There’s another player from my club on the team, Róisín Ennis. I’ve been playing with her since the under 12’s and now we’ve won the O’Connor cup together. It’s really great for our families to see two girls from the club win the cup.
As a student athlete, what drew you to DCU?
“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t for sport! I could have studied bioengineering in a lot of other colleges, but DCU Sport drew me here.”
There was a girl on my club team who played for DCU and the way she described her experience sounded amazing. I wanted to have that lifestyle. It’s a dream come true to be able to play at such a high level while studying at the same time and being surrounded by likeminded people.
How did you choose your course? What are you enjoying most about Bioengineering?
I chose my course quite late, in 6th year I was so focused on getting good grades in the leaving cert that I forgot that it was supposed to lead to a career! It was a family friend who suggested engineering because I’ve always been really into maths and physics. Bioengineering appealed to me because it’s an ever-changing field. I knew I wanted to do something dynamic and not be stuck doing the same thing every day.
So far, I’ve especially enjoyed the thermodynamics module. Our project was to design a robot that could carry water up a ladder, which was cool. It was a group project and I enjoy teamwork, and I think it’s really important to build those skills for the future.
What are your hopes for the future?
I’m on placement at the moment, working in a pharmaceutical company, and I could see myself going into this industry, it is very interesting. There is a module coming up, rehabilitation engineering, that stood out to me before I started the course. I might like to work with prosthetics, helping people after injury, that kind of thing. Obviously there’s a tie-in with sports, as well.
What have been the biggest challenges when it comes to balancing high performance sport with college?
I actually think they really complement each other, but you have to be in a good routine. Knowing that you have a match or training sets time limits to college work, so I have to get it done within those limits. If there’s a day where I don’t have training, I’m more likely to procrastinate. I also use training and going to the gym as a break from studying so I have a nice balance. It’s helping me to build my time management skills and stay organised.
How has DCU Sport helped you achieve your goals?
I live with other athletes, and we have the same lifestyle. We don’t go out regularly or make loads of noise at night because we have training and we all understand that. I’m lucky to be living with like-minded people. Having access to the gym and the pool is brilliant, it’s great to have those facilities as an athlete.
In DCU, anything I need help with, all I have to do is ask. Careers support have been a big help lately, and there are so many student supports available if I need them. I know people who go to other colleges who don’t have the same supports and don’t know who to go to for help, so I feel lucky to have those available to me.