SHE has not closed the door fully on football, but Meabh Cahalane feels her decision to focus on camogie at inter-county level this season is paying off.
In recent years she juggled both, but the life of a dual inter-county player is relentless and after last season’s exertions – Cork lost the All-Ireland camogie final, the footballers were knocked out at the quarter-final stage – something had to give.
‘I based my decision on how I was feeling last year,’ she tells The Southern Star.
‘I loved playing dual, and it’s a privilege to represent Cork in both, but I just found it challenging when it came to the toughest games last year, playing one day after the other.
‘Being involved in dual at senior level with my club as well, it’s a long year.
‘If this is the right decision, I will know later in the year. Hopefully football is not a closed book for me because I love playing it too. This was a personal decision based on how I was feeling after last year.’
Cork football’s loss is camogie’s gain. Not involved with the footballers in 2023, Meabh admits to feeling fresher this year with only one code to concentrate on whereas in recent campaigns the back and forth between both did take its toll.
‘I feel hungry going into every training session because I know I am getting the most out of it. After every session I now have adequate time to recover. I can do the gym and the extra bits and pieces that I feel I need to work on whereas before I wasn’t able to,’ she says.
‘Just going into every training session this year, I feel fresh. Going into the summer I have one focus for the weekend: camogie.
‘It’s a fresh mind as well as body.
‘Of course I miss football and I still watch the football. Hopefully they can do well and we can do well, and that both codes go well this summer.’
While Meabh has parked life as a dual player, her younger sister Orlaith is juggling both; she is one of four current dual Rebels along with Libby Coppinger, Hannah Looney and Aoife Healy.
This is Orlaith’s second season with Matthew Twomey’s camogie set-up and the 2022 Cork minor has made an instant impression – both Cahalane sisters started the recent Division 1A league final against Galway, Meabh in the full-back line, Orlaith in attack.
‘She is after making the step up and has really taken to it,’ Meabh says.
‘She came off the back of winning two All-Ireland minor titles last year (camogie and football) which is a massive achievement; not many people can say that. Aoife Healy is another who has stepped up, too. It’s great to see the younger players coming through and it’s putting people under pressure for positions; you want that bite, you want the younger girls coming in.
‘Orlaith has done well so far, and she can offer us something extra.’
Cork vice-captain Meabh, an accountant with Grant Thornton in Cork city, has crunched the numbers and is confident that the ‘something extra’ can move the Rebels closer to where they want to be: winning major national titles. Cork have come up short in the last two All-Ireland finals (2021 and ’22) and last two Division 1 league deciders (2022 and ’23), and all by narrow margins. They’re close, but haven’t been able to take that next step, yet.
The recent league final defeat to Galway stung, Cork had led but fell away in the second half before losing 2-13 to 1-12. The Rebels’ opening Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Senior Championship Group 1 game is away to the Tribeswomen on the June bank holiday weekend, so it’s a swift chance for revenge.
‘We had a very positive league campaign and we were hoping to come home with the silverware, but we came up short in the end,’ Meabh says.
‘Look, we were disappointed to lose the final because in close games you want to be closing them out, but going up to Galway is an opportunity to go after that performance. We’d be hoping if we put in the performance required, we’ll get the result we want.
‘We have massive belief in the group, and we have massive belief in the management and they have massive belief in us. We are so close, but it is becoming more competitive. There are Galway and Kilkenny, and you have Tipp and Waterford too, every game is so tough now.
‘The three games we have in the group will be massive games, starting with Galway, then Clare and and then Down.’
Meabh Cahalane was speaking at the launch of the 2023 Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Camogie Championships.