COLETTE Desmond had to wait a little longer than her team-mates for her county senior championship debut, but it was worth it.
Last Saturday at Castle Road, the Newcestown full forward racked up 3-6 as they recorded the club’s first-ever victory at this level – and also got their campaign back on track following a Round 1 loss a few weeks earlier to Killeagh.
Lessons were learned from that opening defeat and Imokilly were at the receiving end of a 6-15 to 1-6 scoreline. Desmond was rampant, as was the entire Newcestown team.
‘The only time I can remember scoring something like this is when I scored 2-4 for Carbery in a senior championship game. I couldn't believe it when the goals were going in against Imokilly but the amount of ball and the quality of ball I was getting was exceptional,’ Desmond noted.
Injured, she sat out the 1-23 to 1-5 loss to Killeagh a few weeks earlier. That was a baptism of fire for Newcestown in their first game in the senior grade. The teams were level at the break before Killeagh took over. Desmond admits it was a tough watch but they took on board learnings from the defeat and put them into practice against Imokilly.
‘Everyone was disappointed after the Killeagh game, particularly because we were level at half time. We went back to training and our trainers told us that we need to improve the speed of our hurling, maintain possession better and just do the simple things right. We had two weeks to work on that in training, and we worked hard. Against Imokilly we gave it our all and it worked for us. Killeagh was a bad day but against Imokilly it was much better,’ Desmond said.
The reward is a Round 4 clash with Courcey Rovers this Sunday evening at Castle Road (6.30pm throw-in). Courceys were county finalists two years ago and had a big win over Cloughduv in Round 1, so Newcestown, Cork intermediate champions last season, will have to raise their game again. Desmond knows this but it’s for big days like next Sunday that she has waited for.
When Newcestown beat Enniskeane in the county intermediate final last October, she stood on the sideline. She was pregnant with her first child, Rían, who announced his arrival the next month, so there were more celebrations for herself and her husband, Fintan O’Toole. Still, in the back of her mind, she wanted to get back on the pitch with Newcestown this year and play in the senior championship.
‘I missed out on last year, I looked on with envy at Castle Road as the girls celebrated the county final win, me with my baby bump. I would have loved to have been part of that win because they were buzzing after it. Rían arrived in November so we had our own celebrations,’ she said.
‘It was always in the back of my head to try and get back this summer, even to be part of the senior panel. I’m 35, I have played camogie for a long time with Newcestown, we have endured a lot of losses, we built up the club from junior so to get an opportunity to play senior was my goal.
‘I was planning on coming back earlier but then lockdown came so I didn’t get back onto the pitch until July when restrictions were lifted. I went back too hard then, did too much in the first week and ended up on the physio’s table with back and knee injuries. Unfortunately, I didn't play against Killeagh which was disappointing.’ Desmond had to wait that little bit longer for her first taste of senior action, and she announced her arrival in style against Imokilly. Newcestown gave the performance they worked for and it’s given them a bounce in their step this week at training and also injected some optimism ahead of the clash with Courceys.
‘We won the breaks and the dirty ball that wasn't happening against Killeagh. Orla Dineen’s puck-outs were outstanding, they were landing on our half-forward line and this time we were winning them whereas against Killeagh we were losing the ball there and couldn’t get it into the full-forward line,’ explained Desmond, who knows Courceys are a team to be reckoned with.
‘They are an experienced side with so many excellent players. They are playing senior a lot longer than us and they are a team that is in the conversation when you talk about possible winners. They want to win a county title.
‘We have nothing to lose, it will be a tough encounter but we are going to enjoy it. This is a first for us. Being from Newcestown we will always wear the red and yellow jersey with pride, whatever the outcome we will be proud of how far the club has come in its first season in the senior ranks.’
The Newcestown camogie story is a great one, a club that’s battled from junior up to senior, and it’s also a club that’s on the front foot and going places. Numbers are strong at all grades and they’ve players on Cork panels from underage to senior – the club has taken huge strides in recent times.
‘When I was U16 or minor, I think I was the only girl in my class playing camogie so the club and the coaches deserve huge credit for the work they’ve put in over the years. Now there is a huge amount of girls training,’ Desmond said.
‘I didn’t play last year and only came back in July, and when I went up to training and there were 29 there, I couldn’t believe it. There was minor training going on too, with another 20 girls. It was great to see. Newcestown will go from strength to strength, the conveyor belt is working, the underage talent is coming through and the club will stay in the senior ranks.’
Her advice for her team-mates ahead of Sunday’s match is to cherish this moment. They’ve worked extremely hard to get to this point. For some, the wait has been longer than others but they’re at the top table now and determined to keep pushing forward – and Desmond will lead the charge in attack.