Lightning-fast Doheny defender makes her debut for Cork ladies football team
MELISSA Duggan has got the taste for senior football – and she likes it.
The Dohenys defender (20) made her Cork senior debut in last Sunday’s Lidl Ladies National Football League 5-17 to 1-11 hammering of Kerry in Mallow and her performance impressed manager Ephie Fitzgerald.
‘Melissa was making her debut. She might be a player little in stature but she is as brave as a lion and she did very well against Sarah Houlihan,’ Fitzgerald said afterwards, and Melissa herself was happy with how her first senior outing played out.
‘James (Masters, Cork senior ladies football coach) rang me during the week before the game, he told me that I would be starting at corner back and he just said to give it my best shot, not to be nervous and to play like I would normally play,’ she explained.
‘To be honest, I was nervous beforehand because I didn’t know what to expect. But that’s only natural.
‘Kerry are a good team, strong underage and have a strong senior team, and it was my first senior game and in the league so it was all new to me.
‘On the day Orla Finn and Roisín Phelan were helping me, giving me advice on what to do and that gave me huge confidence going out onto the field.
‘The first ball that came my way, I was lucky that I got it and that gave me a great lift and great confidence for the rest of the game. I was delighted to play 50 minutes.’
Melissa was one of the standout stars for the first-ever West Cork ladies senior football team in last year’s county championship, as Brian McCarthy’s team thundered into the last four on the back of several impressive showings. In fact, she captained the divisional side in its first foray in the county championship.
Getting the chance to play senior football opened the door to the senior Cork set-up, as Dohenys operate at junior B level.
‘Being involved in the West Cork ladies team meant that I was playing on a bigger stage than ever before and there were some of the Cork management team at the games as well,’ she said.
‘We went all the way to the county semi-final, we were playing stronger and bigger teams, so it was great to test myself against better players and play in big games; that improves you as a player.
‘I got a call then in November, it was James (Masters) asking me if I’d like to go training with them. I didn’t have to think twice.’ Melissa has been involved with the Cork minors and U21s before so this is the next natural step for a defender whose speed, versatility and marking skills are among her strongest assets.
‘It’s great to get an opportunity like this. I wasn’t really expecting it. I will keep going and give it my best and hopefully I’ll get more chances,’ said Melissa, whose twin sister Michelle also plays with the Dohenys.
‘I have trained with the minors and U21s before but I never thought that I would get the opportunity to play with the seniors. I know Niamh Cotter and Libby Coppinger from the minor team so it’s nice to have them there in the senior set-up and to know some familiar faces. I also know Orla Finn, Áine Hayes from the West Cork ladies set-up so that makes it easier.’
Melissa is a second year pharmacy student in the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin and makes the trip from the capital to Cork by train twice a week for training, on Wednesdays and Fridays. Balancing college and inter-county commitments is now a labour of love, as she sets her sights on getting more experience in the league. Cork are away to Armagh in round two this Sunday, in Clonmore at 12.30pm.
‘Hopefully I will get a few more minutes over the next few games, we’re away to Armagh this weekend so it would be great if I get some more game-time,’ Melissa said.
‘There are a few new players being given a chance, like Emma Spillane and Aisling O’Sullivan in the back line, it’s great to get a chance like this.
‘If I perform well, then hopefully I can put myself forward to compete for a place. There’s such competition in there so I know I have to play my very best.’