FIONA Keating didn’t have much time to celebrate West Cork’s recent county senior football final triumph.
By 11pm that Saturday night she was at home in bed in Ballinspittle, with her thoughts wrestled away from the football celebrations and focussed on Courcey Rovers’ county senior camogie semi-final the following day.
There were less than 24 hours between the final whistle that greeted West Cork’s breakthrough victory against Mourneabbey at CIT and Courceys’ emphatic camogie semi-final win against Douglas at Castle Road. In between it was about rest and recovery.
‘It was an early night for me after West Cork won the county final,’ the 19-year-old dual star said.
‘I passed my driving test a few weeks ago so I was able to leave the football celebrations early and drive home. My club (Courcey Rovers) means so much to me and I wanted to be right for our semi-final.
‘When I got up on Sunday morning, I went down to the beach and put my legs in the water for a bit. I went for another sleep at 12, just so I was well rested.’
She was due to work from 9am to 2pm that Sunday morning at her local Centra in Ballinspittle but understanding bosses gave her the time off, so she could recover for the second half of a hectic weekend.
Keating played the full, energy-sapping final against Mourneabbey. Physically and emotionally, that was a tiring game as West Cork won their first-ever senior county title against the team that had beaten them in the previous two finals. She had switch from that to her club’s camogie semi-final, and, again, she lasted the full 60 minutes against Douglas and scored five points from play, as Courceys returned to their second senior final in three seasons.
‘I felt good in the camogie semi-final, but it did hit me in the last ten minutes,’ she said.
‘I was playing in the full-forward line with Linda Collins, it was just the two of us in there. In the last 10, 15 minutes they tried bringing me out wing forward, but I lasted about two minutes there because my legs were starting to cave in, so I went back into the full-forward line for the last ten minutes.’
Two huge games, two big performances and two massive wins that leave the current Celtic Ross West Cork Youth Sports Star on the verge of a unique double – county senior football and camogie winner’s medals in the same season.
In October 2018, Keating lined out in two county senior finals on the one weekend, within 25 hours of each other, but both ended in heartbreak. On the Saturday Courcey Rovers lost their first-ever county senior final appearance to Inniscarra and the following day West Cork came up short against Mourneabbey in the county football final replay.
But now she’s on the brink of a senior double, with the football title residing in West Cork for the next 12 months.
‘It was such an incredible feeling to beat Mourneabbey because they’re the best club team in the country and they’ve had it over us in the recent finals – but it all just came together,’ Keating said.
‘We trained a good bit this year, more than normal, and because there was no inter-county we had more time for West Cork. That gave us a chance to gel more as a team and not just a division. You could see that this year in our matches, that we played more as a team than a division, and I think we all trusted each other more and that had a huge impact on each other.
‘You could see with the celebrations after, everyone was absolutely delighted.’
Now, her attention is on the camogie final, against familiar opposition, as it was Inniscarra who beat Courceys in the 2018 county decider.
‘Two years ago when we got to the final, I was only 17 and didn’t have much experience, but I’m two years older now and a lot more experienced so I feel in a good place, and so does the whole team’ she said.
‘We know now what it’s like to get to a county final, to play in one and to lose one – and we don’t want to experience that again. We want to win and we want to get into the Munster series.’
Keating can also draw on the experience of West Cork’s recent 4-9 to 2-13 football win against Mourneabbey ahead of Sunday’s camogie decider against Inniscarra.
‘You learn a lot when you lose and you never want to be back in that position,’ explained Keating, who lost senior football finals in 2018 and 2019, as well as the 2018 camogie final.
‘I’ve played in three county senior finals in a row with West Cork and that will stand to me. I know now what it’s like to win a county final, whereas with camogie most of us have only played in the one that we lost.
‘Even when it comes to dealing with nerves before a big game, I’ve already played in four county finals so that will help me too and it will help the team as well.’
In 2018, it was Courceys’ first county senior final. It was all new to them. But they’re two years on in their development and they’re a better team now. They’ve shown that in wins against St Catherines (2-9 to 1-6), Newcestown (3-14 to 2-6) and Douglas (2-15 to 2-5).
‘We’re a team that is very even, our backs are as strong as our forwards – and I don’t think many teams can say that,’ said Keating, who was named the 2019 West Cork Youth Sports Star off the back of her All-Ireland minor success in both football and camogie last year. Her talent has been recognised by both Cork senior camogie boss Paudie Murray and Rebel football manager Ephie Fitzgerald, as Keating is in with both senior squads. On top of that she’s also starting college next week, studying Maths and Business in the Mary Immaculate College in Thurles. Busy times as always for this talented teen who is one win away from firing Courceys to glory and completing her own double.