BY DARAGH Ó CONCHÚIR
LINDA Collins’ new approach is paying off.
She finished up on the losing side in Sunday’s Division 1 league final against Kilkenny – but her league campaign has had more positives than negatives, one being her player of the match performance in the league semi-final where she scored 2-3.
The Courcey Rovers sharpshooter is not new to the senior set-up but given that she was marked out as one to watch for many years, and has been important in the Rebels’ advancement to the last two intermediate deciders, which also ended in disappointment, it seemed inevitable that she would graduate to the senior team.
She is only 21, so Collins has time on her side. There is no doubt that the progress stalled for a stage and the anticipated upward trajectory of her graph had levelled off.
Something was wrong.
Only so many can make it of course but Collins had the skills, strength and was a lethal finisher. Paudie Murray has illustrated his willingness to fast-track young players with promise on countless occasions over the years. Libby Coppinger, Niamh McCarthy and Chloe Sigerson were stars of last year’s All-Ireland-winning campaign.
Recognising that a problem exists is the first step to solving it and Collins is no longer tying herself up in knots.
Stripping it all back and playing for fun seems to have released the shackles.
‘It is a step up to senior and every year I get so far and then feel like I can never go the next step. But playing with players like Gemma O’Connor and Orla Cotter is surreal and in my head I was thinking ‘Am I even good enough to be playing with them?’ but this year, I’ve taken the approach that I’ve nothing to lose and I might as well go out and enjoy it,’ Collins says.
The feedback from the coaching staff has been an essential element of the process.
‘Kevin Murray is very good. He’d always be giving me tips and tricks, what to improve on. What I’m good at and what I’m not so good at,’ Collins says.
‘Orla Cotter and Aoife Murray would be very good too. They’re very encouraging at training but even away from training, telling you what you might need to brush up on and giving you a confidence boost too. I suppose my confidence in my own ability would have been a problem last year. I don’t know why I lost confidence. As well, I was struggling with fitness since the start of the year. After the exams I got fitter but I suppose it was too late by then. I have tried to keep that going into this year and so far it’s been going okay.’
Collins adds: ‘When you’re playing with a smile on your face, it’s easier to enjoy it. You’re more relaxed on the ball, more confident.
‘I think I probably put too much pressure on myself before. When I was 18, and knowing the talent that was there, every time I’d get the ball I was so nervous. But now I realise you have to say to yourself “You are good enough, relax and remember why you’re playing it in the first place”.’