KINSALE captain Aisling Judge has hailed her teammates’ belief as one of the main reasons the club is on the cusp of All-Ireland glory.
After already winning Cork and Munster junior titles, Kinsale can end this memorable season in the best possible fashion if they defeat Dublin team St Maur’s in the LFGA Junior All-Ireland Club final this Saturday at Dr Cullen Park, Carlow, at 1pm.
The club was only founded in 2001 with Judge one of the main driving forces and it has steadily progressed since then, everything building towards a season like this when they made the big breakthrough – winning the county final against Dromtarriff.
Before that, Kinsale had come up short in a few county U21 and junior finals, so to finally jump that hurdle was a huge relief to the team, and the season has snowballed since.
The Munster title followed with victory against Drom-Broadford and they beat Mayo and Connacht champions Kilmoremoy in the recent All-Ireland semi-final.
‘The team has more belief in ourselves and our ability,’ explained captain, goalkeeper and club chairperson Aisling Judge.
‘A lot of people had written us off ahead of the All-Ireland semi-final, Kilmoremoy were favourites going into the match but there was never a doubt that we could and would win.
‘We have big support coming to our games and ordinarily – and let’s be honest – we didn’t have that support earlier in year. If you go back 12 months, playing in front of a crowd in a county final was a big deal and something this team wasn’t used to, but now we embrace it.
‘We have come together as a team so much, the unity and belief has grown through our experiences this season. Now, we don’t doubt ourselves or our ability as a team. We know if we play to our best then it will take a very good team to beat us.’
This is a very young Kinsale team, with Judge (25), Christina Broderick (28) and Cork star Orla Finn (24) the oldest players in the squad, but the experience the entire team has built up has led to this moment, an All-Ireland final, and the chance to create history.
‘In every game this season we have learned something,’ Judge said.
‘Going back to past years when we have been in finals but lost them, we always learned from those experiences. This year we had an unbelievable performance in the county final, I think nerves got the better of us in the Munster final when we did enough but we were aware that we didn’t play to our best, and we learned from that and what it was like to play in front of a loud, partisan crowd. We brought that into the All-Ireland semi-final and that game didn’t faze us. We relished the occasion instead of being afraid of it.
‘There’s no point pretending that Saturday’s game will be the same as the last few matches, it won’t be, this is an All-Ireland final and even the build-up is completely different to what we have experienced before, but at the same every little bit of experience that we have will stand to us.
‘Having a young team actually helps us because all I see is excitement.’
Judge admits she doesn’t know too much about St Maur’s, who beat Latton of Monaghan in an All-Ireland semi-final replay last weekend. But the Kinsale captain is quick to point out that this Kinsale team is a very balanced and strong outfit.
‘A lot of teams outside the county might look at us and think that we just have Orla Finn, one Cork senior, and Sabhdb O’Leary, a Cork minor, but what they don’t realise is that we are a very balanced team,’
‘It’s only when teams play against us that they realise that we are very balanced all over the pitch.’