BY KIERAN McCARTHY
COMING from an athletics background it didn’t take long for Niamh Cotter to get up to speed with senior inter-county ladies football.
The Dromgarriff, Glengarriff native (20) has started for Cork in all six Lidl Ladies NFL Division 1 games this season and the talented midfielder is pushing hard for a starting place in the championship team.
Cotter was brought onto the Cork senior panel halfway through last season but she’s had to wait until this year for her chance – and she has grabbed it.
‘With some of the older girls not involved right now, it gives opportunities to other players. It gives us a chance to show what we can do and put our hands up for the championship,’ the second year UCC law student explained.
‘It’s great to play in competitive games week in and week out, it can only improve my game and I feel the benefits of it already. I’m getting up to the pace of inter-county, I feel like I’m learning in every game.’
Cotter has now played Kerry, Armagh, Mayo, Dublin, Monaghan and Galway – and Donegal are next this Sunday – and she’s starting to feel at home at senior inter-county level.
‘My confidence has grown enormously,’ she said.
‘In the first league game against Kerry I was a bit apprehensive to get on the ball but every game since then, I feel more confident, I’m taking the ball on more myself, I’ll try something different, I feel more comfortable.’
What also helps is her background in athletics, with cross-country and long-distance events that she specialised in. She won county and Munster titles, and even came second in an All-Ireland schools’ 3000m final before. And Cotter feels her athletics experience has translated into football, as she explains.
‘It’s a great sport to be involved in at a young age because you build up a great foundation for fitness. It definitely helps,’ she said.
‘I’ve built up a great stamina over the years and what I work on now is trying to get my speed up. With cross-country and long-distance races you’re more concerned about keeping going for as long as possible whereas with football you need a blend of speed and stamina.
‘I have the stamina so I’m working on the speed.’
At one point, the former Coláiste Pobail Bheanntraí student considered pursuing a career in athletics – but Cork minor football changed all that.
‘I was big into athletics before I started concentrating on football,’ said Cotter, who turns 21 in September.
‘I would have played football with Beara and basketball with Bantry and I was also running with Bantry. I was really big into running for a while, I made a couple of Irish teams, I was half considering dedicating my career to athletics but I preferred the team environment.
‘My last year as minor, I went for Cork minor trials, I got on the team and I played midfield; that really changed my mind. I loved the camradarie and team spirit, it was infectious and I knew then I couldn’t turn my back on football.’
Cotter’s decision to focus on football is benefitting all parties involved, and the more league games she plays and the more she learns, the better she’s becoming.
With uncertainty over the football futures of Briege Corkery and Rena Buckley, a space has opened up in the Cork engine room and Cotter is putting her hand up for the championship.
‘The objective has to be to nail down a place for the championship, that’s what everyone wants. Hopefully if I can keep improving and working on different aspects of my game, I can get a spot but we have to wait and see,’ she said.