I was thrown onto a Gaelic football pitch probably at the age of five. Davey, my Dad, a strong GAA man saw the amount of energy I had as a child and thought, what better way to let her release it than to run around a football pitch.
So I began at under eight, and worked my way up through age groups, playing for both the girls and the boys at U10, U12 and U14. I was devastated when the time came that I was over age to play for the boys. They will not let girls play against boys beyond the age of 14. They were the best years of my life.
I played for my club, Lacken, school, Loreto College Cavan and County, Cavan over the years.
I started my footballing career playing as a wing-half forward because it just seemed the handiest position. As I improved, midfield became my position of choice with most underage teams for girls and boys. When I reached minor, Dad converted me to a wing-half back, with a license to go forward. My favorite.
Now I am 20-years-old and living in New York. It was always a dream of mine to play in Gaelic Park, in the Bronx as my Dad did in the nineties and win as many medals as he did in New York.
I’ve been successful enough in Ireland winning medals over the years, so now it’s time to do it here. I already have one under my belt. We won the championship with Cavan last summer. And I’m ready to win some more.
Cavan are taking on Na Fianna in the Annie Kearney Cup Final this Sunday in Gaelic Park.
“So, Thursday nights training isn’t going to be a killing match”, said Shaun our coach at Wednesday’s practice. Well I hope it’s not, I thought, otherwise none of us will be alive for our big final on Sunday. We understood him though. It means, no mile sprints of Tibbets park or hill runs, or no 500 reps. All that hard work is done.
Our first training session with Cavan this year was on a Sunday morning back in February. A small number of us girls braved the cold and took out for a “jog” around Tibbet’s. For some, it turned into a run, others, a walk. Fitness levels were all over the place after a six month break from the football and a season full of eating and drinking just passed.
I thought I was fit. I wasn’t able to walk for a week after that first session.
But, myself along with the rest of my teammates soldiered on and strived to become as fit as we could. It was not easy though. An excessive amount of cones, hurdles, tackle bags, hills, lunges and squats were involved. No medicine balls this year, thank God.
It doesn’t really help when your trainer is a personal trainer himself and does the drills with you. He put us all to shame, back then. Not now though, any of us would roast him.
There was cursing involved, tears shed, and dinners brought back up over in Van Cortland. Commitments have been made. Girls have tormented their bosses for time off work, left kids with a babysitter, put studies on hold to come back from college and travelled from different boroughs and states to make training and games.
All the girls who provide the lifts to training and games throughout the year. Without them, none of us would be getting anywhere. Even though sometimes you’d be praying that nobody could give you a ride so you wouldn’t have to go training, these girls always make sure there’s somebody to take you. You might not always get there safe, but you’re guaranteed the craic.
After weeks of training, we had our first match on Sunday April 15th against Rockland, in Rockland. We started the game with 12 players and ended in with nine. We won. It was a good feeling overall, but disappointing for myself. My bothersome, recurring knee injury decided to give way which has left me out of action for some time.
Since that first game we kept on training hard. We have had some ups and downs, with one more win and two losses. Our win has taken us through to the Annie Kearney Cup Final this Sunday.
Last Saturday, we suffered a loss to Fermanagh ladies. It was their first time in years to beat Cavan. We had the players, but we just didn’t perform on the day.
I found myself in a new position. After being out injured for four weeks, I got handed the goalie’s jersey on the evening.
I think I have just about played in every other one of the 14 positions on a Gaelic football pitch, but never in nets. I apologized to the girls in advance going into the game, but realized later, that is not the right attitude to have.
The entire game I stood there singing “Big Bad Wolf” By Duck Sauce in my head, because it had been overplayed in Ned’s bar the night before. I was more like “Little Red Riding Hood” in the goals, absolutely terrified. I really do have so much respect for goalkeepers now. They are brave people.
I learned something from that game. Never go onto a pitch to play if you are going to have a negative attitude. Just stay at home, or stand on the sideline. A good team needs positivity. It is important for a team and their trainers to maintain a positive attitude. To some it comes naturally, but to work on this, click here.
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