December 8, 2023

Ulster GAA, in conjunction with Queen’s University, has launched its charity sky dive that will take place on March 12 in Garvagh, which is aimed at raising much needed funds for Air Ambulance Northern Ireland and the Patrick G Johnston Centre for Cancer research.

Some of the biggest names in Ulster GAA will take the plunge from 15,000 feet. Antrim camogie legend Jane Adams accepted the sky dive invitation. She tells Brendan Crossan why she decided to get involved and talks about her illustrious playing career and what the future holds for the O’Donovan Rossa great…

Brendan Crossan: How did you get signed up for a charity sky dive?

Jane Adams: There are so many charities out there doing great work, but these two charities really appealed to me.

My Grandad Cecil, who played a massive part in my life, suffered from prostate cancer and died of it, so that pulled me in straight away. Another girl who works in Connected Health, we did a bit of fundraising for her as her younger brother was in a motorbike accident during COVID. He was unfortunately killed but the air ambulance tried to save him. For me, that’s why I bought into doing the sky dive. Everybody has a story to tell around both charities.

BC: Sky diving. Are you right in the head?

JA: No! When I received the text to do a charity event, I said that I wouldn’t be doing any dancing, singing or boxing. But when I heard it was sky diving, I jumped at the chance. I did one before in Australia with my sister and her husband. Since then, I have always wanted to do it again in any part of the world. The fact that it’s here and I’ll get to see gorgeous, old Ireland from above is even better!

BC: What type of training or skills do you need?

JA: Courage, probably (laughing). You are with someone who has done 100-plus jumps before and they’ll get you down okay.

BC: How many feet will jump from?

JA: 15,000 feet. We’ll head up to Garvagh and everybody will be in the same plane and then we’ll all take the leap out.

BC: You’re on the edge of the plane, you’re about to jump out into the clouds. How are you going to feel?

JA: Well, the last time I did it, my nerves went away because I saw how grey my brother-in-law’s face was before he was about the jump out. So Theresa [my sister] and me were just laughing at him! He was thrown out first.

We didn’t realise how big a thing we were about to do until Theresa shouted to me: ‘Jane, I love you’ (laughing).

At that point you just don’t know what’s going to happen. I was sitting on the edge of the plane for a couple of seconds and off you go. Your heart is pumping like crazy. My eyes are probably closed for the first few seconds but the person behind me was calming me. You open your eyes and you can see the beautiful scenery and you can see the others down below you and you’re thinking: ‘This is unbelievable.’

It doesn’t take long to get back down, about five minutes.

Whenever you’re coasting down, you think: how am I ever going to top this?

Once I was asked to do this one by the Ulster Council, I saw it as an opportunity. It’s a bit of a dare devil thing.

BC: Is there anything you wouldn’t do?

JA: A bungee jump. No way. Anything else, no problem. The best thing that I ever experienced was deep sea diving in the Great Barrier Reef.

BC: Do these types of opportunities appeal to you more since you’ve retired from camogie?

JA: Yes, probably. Whenever you’re playing, you’re so focused on your next match, but it’s great to be asked to do these things. I’m at the age where I’ll do anything.

I’m thankful that people are asking me to do them. So I’m able to do this and hopefully raise a good bit of money with the platform that I have and I’m doing something enjoyable as well. Whenever you stop playing, you can do other things.

BC: You’re retired nine years. Was retirement tough?

JA: I went at the right time. I knew in my head it was time to go. I had such amazing experiences playing camogie, it really shaped me. I had given everything that I had to give.

If I’m giving 80 percent to something, it’s not going to work for me. I knew I wasn’t going to get paid playing camogie, so I needed to give time over to the businesses [Manny’s chip shops and Pizza Guys, Antrim Road] to allow them to develop but also grow in my personal life as well. I don’t look back, ever, and regret the decision that I made and I’m happy enough with it.

BC: Is there anything in your career that you miss that you wish you could have back for five minutes?

JA: Playing matches. Whenever I watch a match I wish I was playing in that match, or if I saw someone doing a certain skill, that’s when I miss it, whether it’s chasing down a ball or scoring, just those wee feelings.

In saying that, I know I still made the right decision and could have played on for another few years.

BC: Are you nostalgic, or do you not look in your rear view much?

JA: I always do. With my nieces and nephews, because their mummies were part of our successes as well, we all talk about our playing days, and I’m thankful I was in the position that I was, that I met so many friends.

For instance, the opportunity of going out to Kenya recently came up through my involvement in the GAA, so I look back with great fondness. Right up until I retired, I loved every part of it. I love talking about it and thinking about it. And I love boasting about it to the kids!

BC: In the mind’s eye, what’s the thing you see when you are playing camogie?

JA: Seeing my mummy on the sideline at every match. I think she only missed one county final – she was on holiday and I told her not to come home for the game – but when the game was over I was looking over to see if she’d come home for the match!

Whenever I think about me playing, I think about her standing on the sideline and always being there. My mummy and daddy were at every single match; they sponsored every single team I played on, they gave me everything to allow me to play camogie. They didn’t give me too much hassle about my school work. My ‘wee team of six’ gave me massive motivation because I saw how proud my mummy and daddy was with my sisters and me playing together.

And because of the discipline that came with it, we were polite to people, we had manners and we were actually good at it the sport itself. My family was my motivation. I loved it and they loved it just as much as me because they could see how happy it made me.

BC: When you were young did you believe you could achieve what you ended up achieving in camogie?

JA: Yes. Definitely. When I was around 11 I was so taken by the skill of DJ Carey. When I saw him playing I was completely blown away. I couldn’t believe that somebody could do the things that he did at that speed. I could not believe his mastery of the ball. I just thought about how I could get better and better. Whenever I was 13 or 14 we went down to play in the All-Ireland Féile and we won it. We were All-Ireland champions. That’s when I really started to know that we were mixing it with everybody in Ireland, so why not? After that we just kept going and going: in ’97, we won a junior All-Ireland, in 2000 we won an intermediate All-Ireland and then ‘Rossa started winning.

BC: What was the hardest skill to master?

JA: Probably getting out of a ruck with the ball. People probably thought: ‘She’s small, she’ll get pushed off the ball…’ My motivation then was to get stronger, get lower to the ground. That was probably the hardest skill but it gave me the most enjoyment, to be able to get the ball off somebody who was a lot bigger than me.

BC: Given your achievements in sport and in business, you must be proud of yourself…

JA: I am proud, but there is the likes of Ashling Thompson who has four club All-Irelands, played for Cork and has five Allstars. I am happy and lucky in the time that I had and what I achieved. I love that I did it.

I had a wee plan in my head when I was young and everything that I planned I have achieved it in camogie, so I’m super proud of that.

In business, I’m proud that I’m working with my sister and we’re helping communities but they are helping us to pay our bills. I’m very happy with the work I do and in my family life I didn’t think I’d be as happy as what I am. I’m proud that I have a lovely wife and my ‘wee team’, which is my family, and after that I have my nieces and nephews. I’m sitting on top of the world, but it doesn’t mean I don’t have any problems.

I’m proud of everything I’ve done but I couldn’t have done it without the support and the love that I got since I was a wee kid.

BC: Are you a risk-taker in business?

JA: There has to be a certain amount of you that can take a calculated risk. You might only have one shot. I’ve taken a few risks that maybe haven’t worked out but then the next risk is more calculated. I think those experiences have made me taken better risks. If you’re in front of the net and you don’t shoot, then you’re never going to score. You shouldn’t be afraid to take a risk. I try not to be afraid of things.

BC: Have you a plan for the next five or six years?

JA: I’m happy with our Manny’s chip shows [Antrim Road and Glengormley]. We want them to do better than what they already are… You might see a few more Pizza Guys shops. There is potential for development there and I want to keep my finger on the pulse with that. There’s also a company my daddy and sister are involved in Connected Health, so I’d like to diversify into that, help them expand throughout Ireland and make them the best home-care provider out there.

BC: Would you like to coach?

JA: If I was doing it, I’d have to give it 100 per cent. I’ve been asked to take different teams but I need to be totally committed. I’m not saying I’ll never do it, I think I will in the future. It’s whenever the time is right and I can commit to it. I wouldn’t sell anybody short by not giving 100 per cent.

BC: Do you think you’d be good at it?

JA: I don’t know (laughs)… Probably not!

BC: Are you looking forward to being on the edge of an aeroplane on March 12?

JA: I know for a fact that there will be somebody there more afraid than I am, so I’ll be okay! I think I’ll focus on Jarlath Burns! I know he’ll be more afraid than me!

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