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Anna Geary: 14-hour workdays are a walk in the park compared to motherhood

Camogie star, broadcaster, and farmer’s daughter, Anna Geary is a new mum with a two-month-old baby and a hectic schedule.

Yet when I mention my 13-year-old niece is a fan, she offers to make a video for her.

For a rising star on the U14 camogie team, a message from Anna Geary is as good as nabbing Taylor Swift tickets and I’ve earned serious brownie points for the foreseeable future.

Although she’s polished and staggeringly beautiful, Anna is incredibly warm and open and is as comfortable talking about her television work as she is about her “leaky boobs” and forgetting the last time she took a shower. 

Little baby Ronan is already showing a sure streak of divilment, she tells me.

“I’ll think he’s about to go down. He lulls me into a false sense of security. Then one eye will open and he’ll go; ‘did you think I was falling asleep?’ It’s almost like he’s taunting me.”

She admits she is constantly asking herself the question, “am I exaggerating?” But, she always comes to the same conclusion: “motherhood is hard.”

“It’s changed our life obviously for the better but it is also testing. You’re up at three or four o’clock in the morning breastfeeding and thinking, when was the last time I went to the bathroom?”

Anna's two-month-old son Ronan is showing a streak of divilment. Picture: Moya Nolan
Anna's two-month-old son Ronan is showing a streak of divilment. Picture: Moya Nolan

While Anna is adapting to this seismic shift, she admits it’s getting better as she’s easing into it. And her priorities have certainly changed.

“I’ll never complain about 14-hour days on Ireland’s Fittest Family again. That’s a walk in the park compared with sleep deprivation.”

She has a newfound appreciation for the simplest things: “I’m loving things that I took for granted — the basics. Now those things are luxuries, like having a shower and putting on body moisturiser — or sitting with an actual hot cup of coffee that hasn’t been reheated twice.”

Anna met her husband Kevin Sexton in the infamous Flannery’s, a bona fide Dublin institution for decades facilitating thirsty GAA lovers in getting the shift via cheesy pop music and bootcut jeans.

As on the pitch, there’s strength in numbers and an important part of that equation was the ‘wing man’ or ‘wing woman’.

We may have moved on from the brazen sounds of six girls huddled together on the dance floor, shrieking “will you score my friend” but Anna believes having your friends by your side is an integral part of the Irish mating ritual, at least for those from “down the country”.

That’s why she’s signed up to host a new RTÉ series, Love in the Country. Following six ‘romantic hopefuls’ all living in remote areas of Ireland, Anna acts as a wing woman as they go on dates with multiple matches.

Anna went to St Mary’s in Charleville, an all-girls secondary school but she played on the boys’ team for Sciath na Scol which allowed her to get to know the local lads and vet any potential love interests.

It was easier when we were younger. Now, it’s so much harder. The local social scene has definitely died down. You’ve got these apps that people aren’t really comfortable using but for a lot of people, it’s desperate measures.”

Those measures also involve putting a call out over the internet and hosting a group date with a shortlist of suitors including a farmer from Westmeath, a veterinary nursing student/sheep farmer from Roscommon, a pharmacist and part-time farmer from West Cork, a coffee shop owner from Wexford, a land custodian from Carlow, and a café owner from Mayo.

“We’ve heard of the matchmakers in years gone by and this is bringing it into the 21st century. You’ve got your digital profile — they put up their video saying what they want and what they’re about and people write to them and say what they liked about that person.”

Anna was fascinated to see how the selection process differed from person to person.

“Some people didn’t look at the photo until they read the message because they didn’t want the photo to influence the letter. For some people, the first thing they looked at was the photograph.”

Did Anna favour one approach over the other?

“From a social experiment point of view, it was very interesting to see how their process for picking people actually worked. Some people really took the time to bare their heart and soul in their letter and put it all out there.

“Some were really determined not to overlook the physical attraction — they needed to feel that connection as well as click with their personality.”

Anna met her husband Kevin Sexton in the infamous Flannery’s, a bona fide Dublin institution. Picture: @annagcork / Instagram
Anna met her husband Kevin Sexton in the infamous Flannery’s, a bona fide Dublin institution. Picture: @annagcork / Instagram

Anna describes herself as a “hopeless romantic”.

“I love the idea of people being able to find somebody, not just that you’re physically attracted to, but that you can chat with, somebody that likes you for your weirdness or quirkiness and idiosyncrasies.”

The show is based on the international format of Farmer Wants a Wife which originated in the UK in 2001 and has been running in multiple regions ever since.

In the British version, the suitors all stay with the farmer but the Irish version has been slightly modified — they are allowed to stay in a local B&B.

“They have this X Factor moment where they’re all lined up and the person says ‘the people I would like to spend my weekend with are.…’

“You get to see the competition and inevitably, some will bring the homemade cake. You’ll see daggers from the others, thinking; ‘why didn’t I do that?’”

She did have to “pull some of the lads for chats” though and describes herself as the friend who tells you what you need to hear but “doesn’t necessarily want to hear”.

“That was my job, reminding somebody, ‘well, this is what you said you wanted. This person is presenting all of those attributes, so what’s the problem?’”

There are a lot of “lightbulb moments”, says Anna who was genuinely surprised with some of the pairings that transpired.

 Anna: Everybody deserves to have somebody special. Picture: Moya Nolan
Anna: Everybody deserves to have somebody special. Picture: Moya Nolan

Texting etiquette is something that comes up (“don’t leave the person ‘on read’ for four days”) as well as being comfortable with silence.

Ultimately, the show runs the gamut of emotions and Anna thinks that viewers will really enjoy watching the show as much as she enjoyed filming it.

“It’s heartwarming. There were times I cried. These people were baring their hearts. There were other times I was cringing. That’s what love is about — taking risks.”

Relationships come in all shapes and sizes and Anna says she would love to see the show diversify if it returns to RTÉ for a second season.

“The older the candidates are, the more diverse the spectrum, the better, because love is so different nowadays. It doesn’t matter who it’s between, what age you are, who you are, what your sexual preferences are.

“Everybody deserves to have somebody special. For one of the women, she said she would just love to have someone to make a proper dinner for. It was such a simple but really significant thing for her.”

Dating is not easy for those living in remote or rural areas, she says but if you find your person, as Anna did, “you will find a way”.

“You could be swiping right on Tinder and the nearest person would be 20km. But dating a local person — you will have seen them pick their nose in primary school and everybody will be listening in on your date in the local pub.

“It’s worth travelling for the right person.”

Love In the Country airs Mondays on RTÉ 2 at 9.30pm