SATURDAY, September 12th, 2020, is a date Cork senior footballer Niamh Cotter will never forget.
That afternoon saw the Glengarriff native take part in her first Dublin LGFA senior county decider. Cotter transferred to Kilmacud Crokes the previous year but unfortunately, she and her new teammates came up short in their bid to deny Foxrock-Cabinteely a sixth successive title.
A pulsating encounter ended 2-13 to 3-8 in the defending champions’ favour after extra-time at Parnell Park. Disconsolate, Cotter jumped in a car with some of her team-mates and immediately tuned into a live stream of her previous team’s Cork senior county final clash with Mourneabbey.
Having been involved in West Cork for a number of seasons (2017-19), Cotter couldn’t prevent the tears from flowing as the final whistle heralded the division’s first senior crown.
‘I was absolutely over the moon for the girls and in floods of tears,’ Cotter told The Star Sport Podcast.
‘We (Kilmacud Crokes) had our own senior county final that same day. Our county final was on at 3pm and I think West Cork were on at 4pm so I managed to catch the last 20 minutes of the live stream.
‘We were in the car on the way back and I was shouting and roaring. The other girls with me were cracking up. We nearly crashed the car when Daire Kiely got that last goal! It was just brilliant.
‘I know exactly how much work the girls have put in. Especially the likes of Brian (McCarthy) and Anne (O’Grady) who have been there since the start. I just couldn’t be happier for all the girls and management.
‘Áine Terry (O’Sullivan) being captain as well, we played together all the way up. To see her lift that cup was special. There was a great picture of her bringing the cup over to her sister Niamh. Niamh and Áine would have been the two players I played the most with so that was just a lovely moment for them, their family and all of Allihies as well. I was absolutely delighted for the girls as it was a really special year for them.’
Cotter transferred to Dublin club Kilmacud Crokes earlier in the year so she could be closer to University College Dublin where she is studying for a Masters in European Law. On the field a back injury suffered in a challenge game meant she missed Cork’s opening games in the national league. Next came Covid-19, which has the Glengariff native back at home studying for her upcoming FE1’s solicitor exams.
Now injury-free and coming off a tremendous showing in this year’s Dublin senior championship, Cotter is back training with the Cork seniors ahead of a restructured All-Ireland series.
‘I have found the standard in both club championships to be very, very good,’ Cotter answered when asked to compare the Cork and Dublin football championships.
‘Over the last number of years in Cork, I suppose there have been two teams, Mourneabbey and West Cork, that have been the two most likely to win the county. Whereas in Dublin, there is a small bit more unpredictability in that there are five of six contenders and no-one was calling anyone out as firm favourites to win it.
‘From that aspect, a lot of this year’s Dublin senior championship group games were extremely competitive. It often came down to the last game in the group to determine who would get into the semi-finals. Even the two semi-finals were close, we played Na Fianna and pushed all the way before coming out of that by about five points.’
No sooner had Cotter lost that county final and was back in the clubhouse when she started getting asked what the story was with next year and if she had a job lined up in Dublin.
‘I’m still trying to figure out that bit if it,’ the Cork senior commented.
‘In a year’s time, I will be starting my training contract with a solicitor’s firm in Dublin. Looking long-term, I probably will be based up there but it is just the next 12 months or so that I’m not sure where I will base myself. I’ll be looking to move up there within the next 18 to 24 months because my training contract will be in Dublin.’
Cork face two massive challenges in the coming weeks. First up is a meeting with rivals Kerry on November 7th before a trip to Cavan in a restructured All-Ireland LGFA Championship.
‘The competition for places at (Cork) training is just insane,’ she said.
‘You are fighting tooth and nail just to get on that team. The competition for places is just brilliant to see. Having been out for so long, I have a serious job on my hands to try and break back into the team.
‘There are an awful lot of players playing extremely well at the moment but it is a challenge I am relishing and looking forward to. I just go at every training session and try to do my best.
‘The main thing is that Cork performs well as a team. Everyone is delighted to be back and playing well at the moment so as long as we are moving in the right direction, that’s the most important thing.
‘If there is a specific job to be done then there is always someone available to step in. That’s the kind of set-up Cork needs.’