BY DENIS HURLEY
KINSALE goalkeeper Aisling Judge was battling with pneumonia ahead of the All-Ireland Club IFC semi-final against Galway’s Maigh Cuilinn a fortnight ago.
She admits herself that even the possibility of playing was down to her position – ‘There was no way I could have been running around, not a hope in hell!’ she laughs – and she ended up being substituted for Grace Cronin after a coughing fit in injury time.
She had a cunning plan, however, to ensure a fairly quiet day.
‘We didn’t really know in the week leading up to the game if I’d be fit or not,’ she says.
‘The girls were asking me how I was and I was saying that I’d be grand once they kept the ball down the other end!’
Judge wasn’t able to roll an armchair into the goal, however – a save from Molly Ní Eidhín just before half-time went a long way to ensuring an interval lead – but overall the 0-18 to 2-11 win demonstrated the growing obduracy of the side.
‘We started well in the second half and, while you’d have loved us to have kicked on and won well, in some ways, having to show that grit and determination was a good test of ourselves,’ she says.
‘In that last minute, when we were a point up and didn’t have possession, it would have been so easy for our backs to give away a foul and a point for them would have brought it to extra time.
‘That epitomises how far we have come as a team. We’d be known for our forwards and a load of them have played for Cork, but that back line has come on leaps and bounds.’
That win has earned Kinsale a spot in Sunday’s All-Ireland final against Meath’s Dunboyne in Parnell Park (1.45pm).
A year ago, they faced Dublin’s St Maur’s in the All-Ireland junior final and came up short, but the campaign proved educational in terms of dealing with new challenges.
‘Last year, we were quite young and new to it all and it was maybe a bit over-bearing,’ Judge says.
‘This time, we all met and decided that we were going to embrace it rather than trying to fight it or block it out.
‘You get quite tired when you are trying to block things like that out so you’re better off just going with the occasion.’
To that end, Kinsale as a club certainly put the best side out in hosting the semi-final. As club chairperson, Judge is reluctant to take any real praise and instead heaps it on others.
‘The club was spectacular for the organisation and everything that was done,’ she says.
‘The whole clubhouse was painted, there was gravel put down in the carpark, the whole place was done up.
‘I’m chairperson but I wasn’t involved at all – the committee just told me to concentrate on being a player.
‘The group that organised it, when we met, we said that what we wanted was for everyone – Maigh Cuilinn and people coming to watch the match – to receive a welcome, and that, no matter what the result, they left feeling that they wanted to come back.’
And playing such a big game on home ground?
‘It was unbelievable,’ she says.
‘A lot of people were saying we could have played it in CIT or somewhere with a stand, but how do you pass up the opportunity to play a game like that on your own pitch?
‘I would have historically been a player who got nervous with crowds, but for that match I really enjoyed it, I think we all did.
‘We didn’t stand off and there was no fear of making a mistake, we all relished the crowd and the goodwill. The town was incredible in the build-up, the whole place was decorated, everywhere had signs and flags up.’
While Sunday won’t be a home game, there will nevertheless be a large travelling contingent. The team will head up the day before, which Judge believes is a positive.
‘The match is at a time where you could travel on the Sunday morning but we decided that it’d be better to be able to relax.
‘It worked well last year when we went to Ballina for the junior semi-final, it was great for bonding. It gives it a professionalism and I always find that waiting for a match like that is the worst part but as soon as you get in the car or the bus or whatever and you start travelling, you’re on the way.
‘Mentally, it’s not as exhausting whereas otherwise you’re there on the Saturday and you’re hanging around and waiting.’