Courcey Rovers star Saoirse McCarthy chats to Ger McCarthy about her dream season and missing the county final
FEW athletes are more deserving of a West Cork Sports Star of the Month award than Cork GAA camogie and Courcey Rovers’ Saoirse McCarthy.
The Kinsale Community School student has come to the end of a an action-packed 12 months in which the emerging star won All-Ireland minor, intermediate and senior camogie medals. That’s three All-Irelands in one calendar year.
Add to that, the player of the match award in the All-Ireland intermediate final, being crowned the intermediate camogie Players’ Player of the Year plus a Soaring Star All-Star award and McCarthy could be forgiven for having her head in the clouds.
But the first thing the 18-year-old remembers when asked about an amazing 12 months is her devastation at missing out on Courcey Rovers’ county senior final appearance due to having her appendix removed.
That tells you how down to earth she is, putting the disappointment of her club’s county final loss to Inniscarra ahead of all the personal accolades picked up at inter-county level.
‘That was a real downer (missing out on Courcey’s county final),’ McCarthy
told The Southern Star.
‘Everyone kept saying to me how lucky I was and that I didn’t have to have my appendix out earlier in the year because that would have cost me All-Ireland final appearances for the Cork intermediate and senior teams. People were telling me it that was perfect timing. Well, that’s not how I looked at it at all.
‘I felt like I was letting my team-mates down, that’s how it was for me at the time. I mean, I was so desperate to play that I togged out on the sideline for Courceys only a week after surgery. There I was with my boots and skort, sitting on the substitutes bench and roaring the girls on.
‘I am awful for watching matches though, I’m so bad. I just wanted to be out there making a difference but there was nothing I could do about it.’
In terms of her meteoric rise through the inter-county camogie ranks, McCarthy first appeared in a Cork jersey for the U13s back in 2012. Since then, the Courcey Rovers player has moved up through the age-grades before defeating Galway 0-18 to 1-11 to claim an All-Ireland minor title this past year. That represented Cork’s first success since the age-grade was changed from U16 to U18 back in 2006.
‘I won the All-Ireland minor title with Cork first and that was amazing so I’d have been happy to stop at that!’ McCarthy stated.
‘The day after the minor final I got a call from Paudie Murray and began training with the Cork seniors almost straightaway. I remember coming on in the Munster semi-final against Clare and I barely knew any of the girls.
‘I will be honest and say I was a bit star struck sitting in the dressing room beforehand. Laura Hayes from St Catherine’s who also came up from the minors was with me and we were just looking around at all these household names. It was surreal to be playing with the seniors so soon after togging out for the minors. We trained all summer with the seniors before playing with the intermediates towards the end of the year.’
Fast forward to September and McCarthy walked out on to the hallowed Croke Park turf for an All-Ireland intermediate decider against Down. Once again the 18-year-old made her mark, scoring 0-4 and winning the player of the match award as Cork ended a run of three consecutive All-Ireland final defeats.
The Courcey Rovers star barely had time to celebrate before joining Cork’s substitutes and watching the senior panel register an epic one-point victory over Kilkenny.
‘That day was surreal, like a dream really,’ McCarthy stated.
‘I still haven’t had time to process everything! Everyone keeps asking if I have come back down to earth yet and the answer is no. Some evenings I look at pictures of that day and can’t believe it all happened to me. I have a senior All-Ireland medal?
‘Following on from that, I was honoured to be nominated for a Soaring Star (intermediate) All-Star award. On the night of the awards, I was delighted to get the trophy but couldn’t believe when they announced I had won the intermediate Players’ Player of the Year as well.
‘I honestly thought our goalkeeper Amy Lee was going to win it as she had such a fantastic year. I mean, I even voted for (Cork’s) Niamh Mallon!’
It is difficult to ask a young inter-county player what lies in store for 2019 when the previous 12 months delivered unprecedented success.
McCarthy is different from your average camogie player however and already thinking about what she can achieve with her club and county.
‘Hopefully, I will be involved with the Cork senior panel because we won the intermediate title this year and all of the girls will want to kick on now,’ she said.‘As for Courcey Rovers, next year is definitely going to have to be a big one. Starting with the league trophy, we want to get that back having last won it in 2016.
This past year, I felt I didn’t have hardly any time to play for my club and will hopefully get to represent them a bit more in 2019.
‘It is a huge commitment to keep going for Courcey Rovers and Cork but it doesn’t feel like a big thing because I enjoy playing camogie so much. I was out four nights a week with the inter-county setup alone plus matches at the weekend.
‘This past year, I really wanted that All-Ireland minor title so everything after that was a complete bonus to be honest. Thankfully, I have had quite a quiet winter so far because I was at home recovering from my appendix operation. That was no harm I suppose but I cannot wait for next year.’