We Are Randox | Armagh GAA forward Stefan Campbell
One of our favourite things about our We Are Randox series of staff interviews is the opportunity we are given to find out about the unique and interesting talents of our colleagues.
From creative bakers to melodious musicians, motivated Girl Guide leaders to athletic sportspeople, many of our staff are just as busy outside of the office as they are in it.
Take Tender Coordinator Stefan Campbell for instance. By day Stefan spends time identifying potential business for the company – conducting local and global searches, collating technical specifications and compiling financial information – but in the evenings and weekends he’s impressively one of the forwards for the Armagh Senior Footballers, a Gaelic Football team that competes at an all-Ireland level.
We caught up with Stefan to find out about his intense training regime, his goals for the future of his GAA career, and of course his advice for the newly-formed Randox GAA team!
Here’s Stefan’s story.
I suppose Gaelic Football has always run through the different generations of my family so it was only natural that I began playing at a young age. My brother John played for our local club Clan Na Gael, so after having played for St. Pauls Lurgan, I then moved to Clan Na Gael where he played. I’ve now been a member there for 16 years.
Our County Club, Armagh, then won their first All-Ireland Championship in 2002, with a team that included two players from Clan Na Gael, and so I was inspired to try out for my county myself. The rest as they say, is history.
I’m currently in my 7th season with the Armagh Senior Footballers, after having played for the U18 and U21 squads. My position is usually full forward, alongside two other team mates, however I do often rotate amongst the total line-up of 6 forwards.
Obviously being a forward I am expected to score in each game, and to give you an idea of figures I have had two games in the last week in which I scored 8 points against Antrim and 3 points against Monaghan. I therefore have to make sure to refine my skills in terms of scoring, passing, and timing of the tackle, but there is also quite a lot of emphasis on just simply working hard and putting in the effort to train, as it is an incredibly physical game. Typically, a county team trains 4 nights a week with 2 sessions being in the gym and 2 on the field, at the Callanbridge facility in Armagh.
I’ve played in the opening 3 games of The Dr McKenna Cup (a Gaelic Football competition between counties and universities in Ulster) thus far, and need to make sure I keep up my training so that I remain in the team for the upcoming matches. There is a lot of pressure coming from other very talented squad members, looking for their opportunity to impress, so I have to be on top form.
In the short-term, we have The Dr McKenna Cup Final against Tyrone this Saturday (in which I’m obviously hoping for a win!) and in the longer term I’m really hoping I can win an Armagh Championship with Clan Na Gael. I would also love to secure an Ulster Championship win with Armagh, which is a title I’m still searching for, even though I won the Railway Cup in 2017 playing for Ulster.
The Railway Cup is an annual tournament steeped in history, as it dates back as far as 1927. There is such a large pool of players to choose from when forming an Ulster team, so I know my family was very proud when I was selected, and even more so when we went on to defeat Connaught in the final. I loved the opportunity to play alongside teammates I’m usually competing against.
Another highlight of my GAA career was when I played Gaelic Football in New York, over the course of two summers. Although GAA is an Irish organisation, Gaelic Football is played all over the world in countries such as Dubai, Hong Kong, Australia and the USA, albeit at a lower level than it is played back home. Local players are poached and asked if they would be interested in playing for a particular team in the summer, while they set you up with a job and accommodation. In 2015 I was asked to play for Kerry New York and in 2017 for Westmeath New York, and I found the temptation to spend 3 months abroad, basically free of charge, too good to turn down.
For the record though, GAA is an amateur organisation and therefore as players we don’t get paid to do what we do. Don’t get me wrong, it has its perks, like the unique opportunity to play live on Sky or on the BBC, but ultimately, we play for the love of the sport, while representing our families and communities. It’s this passion that drives me each week to train consistently and improve my skills, even after a day’s work at the Randox office. I do often have long days during which I leave work, go straight to training, and arrive home at about 10.45pm, but it’s something I’m used to and prepare for accordingly. I will say though that it’s extremely difficult to get out of bed on Mondays having played a game the previous day!
As luck will have it, joining Randox means that I now have the opportunity to bring my two careers together, as the company has recently established its own GAA team, which recently competed in the FinTru Ulster Inter-Firms Competition. I don’t see any reason, that with a bit of luck, and the experience we now have from last year, why we can’t get bigger and better and reach this year’s final.
My advice would be to get the squad together as often as our other commitments will allow, to give us more time to polish up our skills, but also, importantly, to become more familiar with our teammates from other departments. I have often found that the most successful teams are not always the most talented, but those with a tighter bond – as they understand their fellow players, can anticipate their game play, and are willing to work that bit harder for one another.
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