Joanne O'Riordan: All-Ireland glory is on the horizon for Cahir Ladies
Joanne O’Riordan: County champions have the dedication and talent to go all the way
Cahir Ladies celebrate winning the Camogie Club Championship Final in Croke Park in 2016. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
In a small room in Cahir House, Co Tipperary, county champions Cahir Ladies football team reconvened for a motivational session to kick-start their year. Sure, some might argue the purpose and if this was even worthwhile, but bringing champions together from all walks of life and getting one-to-one interaction from other sports people is something that is taken for granted in the sports world.
You see, Cahir Ladies football team is no ordinary team. The club was celebrating 20 years of existence in 2017. At the ripe old age of 20, the team capped off birthday celebrations by winning their first senior county title. The plan for the workshop was simple: invite a bunch of speakers and put together a series of goals and strategies for 2018, the most obvious being to reclaim their holy grail and push on.
The team is lined with inter-county stars, but in particular Aishling Moloney is marked down for having a fantastic 2017, winning National League and All-Ireland honours with Tipperary, winning the county with Cahir and rounding it all off by captaining DCU to victory in the Ladies HEC League Division One Final against UL in chilly Stradbally. Then, of course, you have Aisling McCarthy, who, after a stellar year with Tipperary and Cahir, won Intermediate Player of the Year at the TG4 All-Stars. Her inspirational performances from midfield helped Tipperary overcome a Tyrone team that wouldn’t quit. McCarthy finished with an impressive 1-3 out of a total of 1-13.
But that was last year, chairman Jim Haplin was keen to stress. You’re only as good as your last game, and on a bleak Saturday afternoon in January, the girls were given a run-through by five impressive speakers.
The most impressive were boxer Shauna O’Keeffe and Cork captain Ciara O’ Sullivan. In the annual argument over whether the GAA over-imposes on players’ lives, O’Keeffe had a vital message – in amateur sport there, is minimal reward for the loser. Even for the winners, it can be hard to weigh up reward over sacrifice.
But what else will give you that buzz? What else will make you feel butterflies in the pit of your stomach and unite a group of players to one common goal?
The penultimate speaker was O’Sullivan. Again, it felt apt knowing the sports news notifications that were blowing my phone up were regarding how inter-county players are ripped from the clubs and left to fend on scraps.
But, according to O’ Sullivan, her favourite medal among her impressive haul is the county medal she won with Mourneabbey in 2014. The club, O’Sullivan said, is where you grow up, form relationships and develop your first set of skills, and that should not be taken for granted. Sure, every day, she is not skipping into training first in, last out but the passion she spoke with when discussing Mourneabbey was admirable. The same feeder lines are always given by inter-county stars, but this one seemed different. Again, who else or what else can give you that feeling?
Afterwards, the mixing and mingling began, and I always love meeting players in different scenarios or areas where they feel comfortable. Everyone can accuse players of having a robotic persona, but, as a public figure myself, I get it. So, to hear the players all unilaterally agree that this is where they want to be, it was somewhat refreshing.
The culture of the team and programme is like nothing I have ever seen before. All the players are extremely dedicated to making sacrifices to improve their game in ways they or I never thought were possible. They are competitive and driven. Most importantly, they play their best brand of football when there’s no pressure on them, and they can have fun.
The staff and managers make their jobs as players fun and rewarding, and keep their passion for the game alive. Most importantly, they never take the opportunity of playing football, be it club or county, for granted.
After, I got the opportunity to speak with some heads of the club. The same vibe of goodwill and optimism was shared by all. Everyone telling you the high hopes and dreams they have for these ladies.
There is talent on this team, you can sense that. With younger players breaking in on the horizon, don’t look at this article confused when I write that pretty soon, I can sense my next main article on this team will probably be an All-Ireland feature. It’s coming. I’m waiting. The people of Cahir are waiting. But, most importantly, the team is ready and waiting.