EMMA Spillane signed off on her teenage years with a bang: a second successive TG4 All-Star award.
The Bantry Blues’ star turned 20 at the tail-end of November and what better way to celebrate than rubber-stamping her growing reputation as one of the best defenders in the game as she picked up her second All-Star.
Her record is impressive – two years as a Cork senior and two All-Star awards; the second presented to her at the recent All-Star awards in Dublin.
‘I wasn’t expecting it at all, it was a bit of a shock,’ Emma says.
‘It’s nice to get an individual award at the end of a long season and it was great to see three other Cork girls – Ciara and Doirean O’Sullivan and Roisin Phelan – get All-Stars as well; that tops off a good year.’
Emma has to make room at home for another award after being chosen as the December winner in the Carbery Monthly Awards, and picked up the latest addition to her collection in her hometown of Bantry on Saturday night.
She also won a monthly award in 2017, and back at the Westlodge Hotel, she was a year older, wiser and stronger.
‘Physically, I’ve improved a good bit in the last year,’ Emma explains.
‘We are in the gym three times a week with strength and conditioning coach Kevin Tattan.
‘From minor up to senior, the physicality was a huge step up. When I started with the seniors in 2017, that was one of the first things I noticed, the huge different in physicality. It wasn’t too bad this year going back but I still have lots to do.’
Working away on her gym programme throughout the winter, Emma and Cork will be back training in early January with the national league throwing-in at the start of February. The league will be the first target, then the Munster championship, before attention will turn to the big one, the All-Ireland.
This past season, the young Rebels lost out in the All-Ireland final to an experienced Dublin. Emma was one of a number of Cork debutants that day who will be better for that experience.
‘It’s a lot different to any other game I played. There was so much fuss about it in the build-up and there was a massive crowd there but once you get onto the pitch you forget about all that and you play your game,’ Emma says. ‘It was hugely disappointing that we fell short but we’ll bounce back stronger next year. That feeling after will definitely drive us on for next year.
‘I was hungrier this year because of what happened in the 2017 All-Ireland semi-final. That wasn’t a nice feeling so I wanted to drive on in 2018. We got to the final this year, didn’t win it, but that will make us more determined for next year.’
Another positive heading into 2019 is Mourneabbey’s All-Ireland senior club final win on Saturday, with Ciara and Doireann O’Sullivan, Eimear Meaney and Maire O’Callaghan all involved on the county panel.
‘It’s great they have won that All-Ireland after losing those games in the last few years, and it’s sweeter they beat a Dublin team, so they’ll take confidence from that and bring it into the Cork set-up,’ Emma says.
More was expected of the Bantry woman this season, her second campaign, and she delivered. Even more will be expected of her next year, but the UCC second year Commerce student will take it all in her stride. And odds are, she’ll be in the mix for silverware again next year.