TG4 All-Ireland Junior final preview
By Kevin Herron
For Cathy Carey Sunday’s All-Ireland final is her fourth outing on the big stage at Croke Park. The St Ergnat’s native was part of the 2009 and 2012 winning sides and experienced the downside in losing a final back in 2016.
Despite going through it all on three occasions she admits that the nerves don’t go away in the build-up but feels that the experience does help.
“I don’t think your ever past the nerves because you need a wee bit of nerves to get you up for the day” she explains.
“I suppose in the lead-up you don’t get as into it as such, and you don’t let it take over what the focus is as the game and you kind of learn that a wee bit as you get older, I suppose. It’s great to have a buzz- training is going really well, everyone is getting on really well and we’ve a full bill of health”.
“It’s great but I’m sure if you ask me the same question on Sunday morning- will I be nervous? It will be a different answer, but hopefully it will be all under control- a wee bit of experience helps!”.
Final opponents Wicklow are no strangers to the Saffrons- meeting in last year’s semi-final and again in a five-team group stage this season.
Carey acknowledges that familiarity can be a positive and a negative but is a big believer that anything can happen on any given day.
“With five teams in Junior you do get very familiar with each other” believes Carey.
“Sometimes that familiarity can be a good thing or a bad thing because you kind of know what’s coming – but anybody can pull anything out of the bag on the day. They [Wicklow] are sharp, they’re going in as favourites so all we have to do it stick to the game plan and hope that, that works. We’ve to bring our work-rate and drive on the day and hopefully we won’t be far away”.
Having won the TG4 Ulster title with a win over Derry back in June- defeat to the same opponents two-weeks later threatened their hopes of a top-four finish- though Carey was adamant that they learnt from that defeat when there was the potential for it to derail their aspirations.
“Derry set-up very differently on the second day and they probably learnt a lot from the first two games” reflected Carey.
“We could have went into the next game and lost that and fell apart for the rest of the Championship and lost a bit of confidence. But it probably wasn’t a bad thing- it picked us up and we thought- right we’ve an All-Ireland to contend for here”.
“They say you learn more from getting beat sometimes than you do a win. That was probably our steppingstone to a decent run in the group stages, sometimes you have to take a hit to move forward and that was probably it for us”.
31-year-old Carey is amongst the senior players in the squad and has enjoyed the buzz this season and especially the run up to Sunday’s decider.
“It’s a good team with plenty of youth” acknowledges Carey.
“It’s great whenever there is support around the county and a lot of clubs are getting involved in supporting and everything is great for the ladies to be recognised that much. The work the LGFA do to try and fill Croke Park- as much as they can this year given Covid- can only be a good thing that there are so many people going and so many people interested in it. It’s good to come to training and we’re enjoying it, if you’re still training at this time of year then it’s always a good sign. On fine evenings like this it’s a great buzz”.
Carey missed the beginning of the 2020 National League campaign- however returned to action after the first lockdown and was part of the Antrim panel who reached the semi-final last season.
Carey opened up on the struggles that came with a routine change during the COVID-19 lockdowns and is glad they have managed to kick on since returning in May.
“You just have to be very aware of what you are doing outside of the training and matches” said Carey.
“I know the argument is that we’re amateurs and stuff like that, but we still have to take it very seriously and you would never want to miss a game- if you’d miss Sunday because of isolating- it would be a nightmare”.
“The girls looked after themselves and everyone that was doing work over lockdown- it is probably standing by them at this stage. There have been a few unfortunate injuries throughout all the clubs and men’s teams and everything- but it’s a good thing that we’ve a good panel”.
“Everybody has been pushing each other on and you know that there is someone coming up behind to take your place if you aren’t performing in matches or at training. Players have rehabbed and been smart about knocks and niggles – so it’s just been about using our heads as well”.
“I didn’t play in the National League last year and came back for Championship. Once everything was locked down, it was like – right what do we do now apart from sit in the house five nights a week? You do complain whenever you’re out every day or all-day Sunday but when it’s not there – it’s like what do we do now?
“It was probably a break that some people wanted at certain stages or needed but we’ve been able to kick on from there. I suppose every cloud has a silver lining and all that and we can’t wait for Sunday to come”.