BY KIERAN McCARTHY
THE Captain Fantastic who led her team to an All-Ireland final admits she took a double-take after being informed that she was the latest winner of the Celtic Ross West Cork Sports Star of the Month award.
Claire Sexton (18) played a real captain’s role as the senior camogie team of Sacred Heart Secondary School, Clonakilty won both Munster championship and league honours in January before going on to contest the All-Ireland schools’ senior C final against St Dominic’s of Cabra in Nenagh earlier this month.
Unfortunately, there was no fairytale ending for the West Cork school, as the Dublin girls won 2-6 to 1-6, but for her fantastic exploits in leading Sacred Heart to two Munster trophies and an All-Ireland final, and scoring a mind-boggling 13-15 in that adventure, Claire was a deserving recipient of the Celtic Ross West Cork Sports Star of the Month award for February.
‘It’s really nice to receive an award like this, especially one that’s so important to sport in West Cork. It means a lot,’ the Barryroe teenager told The Southern Star.
‘I almost didn’t believe it when I heard it first because when you think of some of the great West Cork sports people that have won this award before, and then there’s me!’
But Claire – the first student of Sacred Heart to receive the award while still in school – is a fitting winner, given her achievements and that of the Clonakilty school’s team.
‘The award is one for the team as well because this was a real team effort by everyone involved. We all worked so hard this season and it’s fantastic that what we achieved has been recognised,’ the Leaving Cert student said.
Over two weeks have now passed since that All-Ireland final loss to St Dominic’s, and while Claire agrees it was a day when the pieces of the jigsaw just didn’t fit, she has also taken a valuable lesson from it.
‘A lot of people have been telling me since what they think we should have done better but once the game is lost then it’s lost, and you need to learn from it and move on,’ Claire said.
‘We didn’t use the wind in the first half and things, in general, didn’t go right for us, but you have to learn from days like that. You can’t always achieve what you want.
‘We worked really hard to get to the final but it wasn’t to be. A lot of the girls will still be playing with the school next year so they will learn from this and be better players for the experience.’
The Sacred Heart captain added: ‘If you told us at the start of the season that we would win two Munster finals, we would have snatched your hand off. That was amazing and it’s something that we can all be really proud of achieving. When we had that winning streak we thought we could go all the way.’
Also a talented hockey player with Clonakilty and having won All-Ireland and Munster medals in athletics (underage), Claire has really made a name for herself on the camogie field.
Last year alone with Cork she won a Munster minor A camogie medal and an All-Ireland minor A camogie runner-up medal, and a Munster junior camogie medal, while she is now involved with the Cork intermediate camogie team.
Another West Cork camogie star in the making, as her Sacred Heart manager Brian Daly recently said, she can be as good as she wants to be.
Claire was joined by family and friends at the Celtic Ross Hotel recently where was was presented with her West Cork Sports Star of the Month award by Helen Wycherley and Neil Grant of the Celtic Ross, Con Downing, editor of The Southern Star, and Paudie Palmer, c103.
The West Cork Sports Star Awards are in their 18th year and these popular local sports awards are run by the Celtic Ross, The Southern Star and c103.