Kieran McCarthy caught up with Kinsale captain and chairperson Aisling Judge ahead of this Saturday’s Munster final
IT’S Wednesday morning in a busier-than-usual week for Aisling Judge.
She’s at work at Eli Lilly, just outside Kinsale, and work is a welcome distraction ahead of her biggest-ever club football game this Saturday – the Munster ladies junior football final between her own Kinsale and Drom-Broadford of Limerick in Mallow, at 1pm.
Not alone is Aisling the goalkeeper for Kinsale ladies, but she’s also the team captain and the club chairperson. Busy times for the 25-year-old former Young Scientist of the Year, a national award she won in 2006 when she was only 14 and attending Kinsale Community School.
On the football field these days, she is known for her heroics between the posts, for Kinsale and also the West Cork senior ladies football team this season.
Taking a few minutes out of her busy schedule, we got Aisling’s thoughts and views ahead of Saturday’s Munster final.
Kieran McCarthy (KMC): So you’re goalkeeper, captain and chairperson with Kinsale ladies GAA – how did the latter come about?
Aisling Judge (AJ): ‘This is my first year as chairperson, I was away in London last year and when I came back, I was keen to get involved and I was asked if I’d be interested in being the chairperson. It’s definitely a new experience for me and I have a great understanding now for all the work that goes on behind the scenes; when you’re playing you don’t see what goes on.
‘Whether it’s with fixtures or getting information for the match programme for Saturday, it’s a busy job, but as someone told me when I took the role at the start, I’m still a player first and foremost, that’s my job.
‘Being captain doesn’t matter as much because there are a few leaders on the team and we try to lead by example.
‘There’s a great team involved in helping the club move forward, and it’s great to see the club growing and improving both on and off the pitch, as we grow our structures as much as we can.’
McCarthy (KMC):Kinsale Ladies’ GAA Club was set up in 2001 and you’re one of the few original members of the club involved. The club has come a long way since those early days.
AJ: ‘I originally played with the boys’ club because there was no girls’ club in the town. I started playing when I was about eight years old and I was around ten or 11 when the girls’ team was set-up, and I’ve been involved from then until now.
‘There are only a couple of the original players left on the team, two or three of us who have been there from the very start and we have seen the club grow from what was basically an U12 team to now finally competing at adult level.
‘Even look at this week ahead of the Munster final on Saturday, there is huge excitement in Kinsale at the moment. There has been a campaign to go blue and white so a lot of shop windows have been done up and there’s bunting on the streets.
‘It’s a real buzz for the players to see the excitement locally. To see the town get excited for a ladies match is great because this wouldn’t happen too often.’
KMC: One of the most striking aspects about this Kinsale team is how young the age profile is. Yourself (25), Christina Broderick (28) and Orla Finn (24) are the oldest on the team by a few years – but is there a feeling that this team is coming of age now?
AJ: ‘It’s an incredibly young team, to be honest. If you look back at the junior and U21 finals that we came up short in over the past few years, we weren’t doing ourselves justice on the big days – but a lot of that was down to our age, we weren’t ready to step up at that point.
‘This year has been a big, big change. We have three players over the age of 22, everyone else is younger, but we have a good cohort that is around 19, 20, 21, whereas in previous years they were younger and not as experienced as they are now.
‘Even though we are still a very young team a lot of these girls have been playing at junior level since they were 16 and have a lot of match experience. It’s scary the potential that is there, when this young group matures, plays intermediate football and hopefully senior football at some point, then the future looks bright.
‘It’s taken a while, that can happen when you are a relatively new club but there’s some great talent on the way up. And in fairness, the younger girls train so hard, they have been fantastic.’
KMC:It’s great being in the Munster final and beating Dungarvan in the semi-final, but how important was it to beat Dromtarriff (4-17 to 1-14) in the Cork county final last month?
AJ: ‘While it’s brilliant to get to a Munster final, the county final was so important this year. I think we lost four county finals in the last four or five years between U21 and junior, and we always seemed to just stumble at the final hurdle.
‘We could never argue with the result in the finals because we were beaten by better teams, but this year when we met at the start of the season there was a bit between everyone’s teeth.
‘We felt we didn’t turn up in last year’s county final that we lost to Bantry and there was almost a chip on our shoulder this year to prove that we were one of the best teams in the county at junior level. It was brilliant to win the county final this year and we won it well, too. In the last ten minutes, I was able to let it sink in a little bit before the celebrations started.
‘Myself, Orla, Christina and a few of the other older girls would have played on junior teams a few years back when we didn’t even know whether we would be able to field an adult team. We didn’t have the numbers. Myself and Orla were even talking about potential transfers to other clubs just to get games so to come from there four or five years ago and to turn it around so quickly is great, and now we have a great team, a great structure and great hope for the future as well. To think where we were then and where we are now, as county champions, is surreal.’
KMC:It’s full steam ahead so for Saturday in Mallow and the chance to win a Munster title for Kinsale?
AJ: ‘To us now it’s about enjoying the ride and focusing on our performance, we have won the county title, the one what we wanted, and this is a new experience for all of us. If we play our football and with the forwards we have, it’s very hard for a team to stop us. It’s different not knowing a lot about the opposition, you can find out a certain amount, but a lot of it is the ability to react on the pitch to what the other team has, player-wise and tactically.
‘We’re all looking forward to it, too, and the few of us who were on the West Cork ladies divisional team this season can use that experience as well – that was a big plus for us, to gain experience there at a higher level, that stands to you when you’re stepping up into Munster. Whatever happens, Kinsale ladies GAA is on the up, there’s huge potential in the club and there are exciting times ahead.’