BY DENIS HURLEY
THE journeys up and down from college in Dublin to Cork training have ended for Melissa Duggan, but the constant travel couldn’t stop her from claiming a first All-Star award.
Along with Orla Finn, who picked up a second award, Duggan was one of just two Cork players named on the team of the year.
The Dunmanway native is almost at the end of a five-year pharmacy course at the Royal College of Surgeons, but she will spend from January to September on placement at
Out on placement January-September, internship, community pharmacy O’Sullivans Pharmacy in Ballinlough, having made sure to arrange something a bit closer to home so as to reduce the mileage.
‘The first year it was fine because it was something new and you didn’t mind heading down for training,’ she says.
‘Definitely, last year was the hardest because I was in the final year of my bachelor’s and there was so much going on and I still had to go down training.
‘In fairness to the management, I used to just call them and say when I couldn’t go down. They were very understanding about it all, thank God for that.’
Having become a regular for Cork in 2017, Duggan was nominated for an All-Star this year and went one better with her win for a series of sterling performances in 2019. Not that she is letting herself become big-headed.
‘It just shows that all the hard work and sacrifices made over the couple of years have paid off,’ she says.
‘I had no idea, none of us did, so when my name was called out, I was shocked!’
Her progress has been the result of incremental improvements, based on a healthy level of self-evaluation.
‘Each year, I try to improve on small things that I’ve noticed,’ Duggan says.
‘This year, I really focused on improving my speed and getting forward. I did put a lot of emphasis on that, particularly at the start of the year.
‘James used to take me aside after training and practice soloing and getting more comfortable on the ball.
‘I did put in a lot of individualised work behind the scenes, separate to the group. To get nominated for all the hard work I put in, it was very rewarding.’
Cork won the national league and reached the All-Ireland semi-finals, losing out to Dublin, who went on to claim a three in a row. However, Duggan is confident that the gap between the Rebels and the Dubs isn’t too large.
‘The semi-final loss was very disappointing,’ she says, ‘but they are the team to beat at the moment and they were knocking at the door for the last ten years, when Cork were on top.
‘They’ve put in such hard work and effort, but we’re not far off them. We’ll just go again next year and improve our standards and increase the individual work with gym sessions and things like that, making sure that each player is right, on and off the field.’
Cork manager Ephie Fitzgerald initially decided to step down when the championship campaign ended but he has since had a u-turn, something Duggan welcomes.
‘Definitely, the fact that Ephie has stayed on is a huge help,’ she says.
‘It means that there will be familiar faces there and it won’t be a completely new set-up. At least we can now continue in January where we left off.
‘There’ll be a few new faces but it’s great that Ephie has decided to stay with us.’
The year was also a productive one for Duggan at club level, helping Dohenys to the county junior B title, beating Midleton in the final. Having lost three consecutive deciders made victory all the sweeter.
‘Winning a county final with your club is everything,’ she says.
‘Especially with Dunmanway, we’re from a small town and we have a small enough panel, the girls gave such great commitment throughout the year, particularly when I might have been training with Cork.
‘To see all of their hard work and commitment throughout the year paying off by winning the match was great, particularly after losing three finals in a row.
‘That was very tough and some girls were considering giving up but we all rallied together and came back stronger. That helped us in the final, the team spirit and the never-say-die attitude that we have.
‘In our league campaign, we’ve played a lot of junior A teams. We’re really looking forward to playing in that championship and having a good crack off it.’