AS THE CURTAIN came down on Caitriona Cormican’s 2018, she made a big decision.

Camogie or football? Football or camogie? The dual star, who works as a doctor, knew one had to give way at senior inter-county level.

Caitriona Cormican with her mother, Kitty, and sister, Antoinette, at the launch of the ‘Go Together’ campaign.

Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“I just decided between work and everything that I’d just go with one,” she says. “I was picking up a few niggles when it was the two sports and stuff like that so I just made the decision to focus on one.”

And by no means was the decision an easy one.

12 months on now, her mind wanders back to the Tribes’ All-Ireland football semi-final exit.

“I probably knew in my heart which way I was going to go. After the Dublin match there were a couple of my close friends around and I said, ‘That’s the last time, probably. I think that’s me done with football.’

“Even though it was very, very tough then to tell the manager. I found it very tough to say it. I’m happy now that I stuck with one.” 

The changing of the guard there as Stephen Glennon left his job as manager, and Tim Rabbitt stepped up to take the reins, perhaps, made it even more difficult to turn her back on football.

“I would have worked with Tim and he’s excellent so it was very, very hard to say no. But just for myself and for my body, with work and everything, I thought just going with one was the right decision.

“I’m happy,” Cormican stresses. “I have time for rest and recovery as well now.”

At the time of our conversation, the Cappataggle star had her eye on an All-Ireland senior camogie quarter-final against Waterford. After crossing that hurdle, the focus is now firmly on the challenge of back-to-back All-Ireland champions Cork in the semi-final this evening [throw-in 7.15pm, LIT Gaelic Grounds].

Likewise, at the time, the footballers were gearing up to face the Déise in their own last-eight battle and after that win, they now go head-to-head with Connacht rivals Mayo. 

Facing Dublin’s Sinead Goldrick.

Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Their number one supporter, Cormican, was keeping the closest of eyes on her former team-mates and chatted at length about how well they’re motoring this year. But what was it really like doing both in the past?

“Now, the summer was very intense,” she concedes. “It’s one weekend straight into the next. I think it was probably eight weekends in-a-row of championship last year, some had two.

“The weekends we had two I went with one or the other. But it was intense. I loved it, but you’re just more prone to picking up injuries and stuff like that.

“Even trying to recover and mentally prepare for the next game… tactically even. They’re two totally different games. You are missing sessions which could be important tactics-wise. That’s what I found hard alright, missing important sessions and things like that. ”

It’s just not sustainable long term and for Cormican, who’s the type to give 100% to everything she tries her hand at, that juggling and personal hardship just couldn’t continue. 

Her 100% commitment to the small ball didn’t exactly start on the right foot this year, however, as a broken thumb sustained in a pre-season challenge match which then required surgery, kept her on the sidelines for quite some time.

“It put me out of action for the league but I suppose it just drove me on,” she frowns. “I was really motivated and driven then to come back.”

Perhaps even more so by the fact that Galway ended their national trophy drought to lift the Division 1 league title, ending Kilkenny’s dream of four in-a-row while doing so.

That win was of huge importance, and it definitely lifted momentum in the group ahead of championship.

“It was a great league campaign for us, but I suppose it’s a long time ago now,” Cormican nods. “It really does feel like a long time ago. There were great celebrations, we really enjoyed it, but we had to park it.

Galway celebrating the league win in March.

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“It’s championship now and the next game is our main concern at the moment. It definitely brought confidence and we built on that in the championship and the training going forward.”

Without a provincial championship to play in, a loss ensued in their next outing; the Cats gaining some sweet revenge, narrowly coming out on top in their All-Ireland championship group opener.

That ended up being a top-of-the-table clash as both sides went on winning streaks from there, but the early win saw Ann Downey’s Kilkenny progress directly to the semi-finals.

There was some disappointment her side didn’t top the group, but Cormican says it’s much of a muchness at the end of the day.

“Of course everyone goes out there wanting to top the group,” she agrees. “It’s a fast-track into a semi-final. The first day out against Kilkenny, it didn’t go our way.

“You just have to park it and then perform as best as you can for the next few matches. I think we did, so we’re on track now. No harm having an extra match in a quarter-final.

“There’s not a downside to it I don’t think, we’re still into the knockout stages and that’s where we wanted to be at the end of the day.”

A GP in Oranmore, Cormican qualified fully in April so everything is well and truly going to plan: “I’m busy now with everything. It’s hectic but I enjoy it.

“They’re brilliant to me in work and they’re brilliant in the camogie set-up as well. They’re very understanding both sides so it’s great. I have a great balance between the two. I’m lucky.”

At this stage, she has it fairly well mastered. But there was a time when things were slightly more difficult.

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Facing Limerick in 2013.

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

“Through college and stuff like that it’s a very intense course. It’d be renowned to be very competitive with a lot of study and things like that,” she explains.

“I was very lucky. In college there were two inter-county footballers in my class; Ciaran McDonald from Tipperary and Josh Moore from Galway. I lived with them in the latter years so it was great.

“We’d all be going off training so you weren’t worrying like, ‘Ah, I’m not doing enough study…’ There was a great balance, we helped each other out. It was really good and I was lucky to have the two lads, to be fair.”

She adds: “I managed to play camogie and football through college as well so that was great. For me, all through since I was in secondary school, I balanced school and football and camogie so it was no different from secondary school.

“Probably different when you come home and there’s no dinner made for you and things like that! That was probably the main struggle, cooking for yourself and that but yeah, I enjoyed it in fairness. And I was lucky that the two lads were there as well.” 

It’s important to have others to look to. Support systems and role models have become so important in the game today, and Cormican is more than happy to now wear that role model tag for the next generation of camógs — and ladies footballers — coming through. 

Being to the forefront, and on the crest of the wave we’re riding, is something that pleases her: “It’s great. If we can be role models to young girls and young boys to take up a sport it’s great, if we can encourage that it’s brilliant.”

On these shores, ladies football has led the way over the past few years in terms of attendances, TV coverage and overall interest, but camogie is now hot on its heels. 

With the quarter-final and semi-finals both broadcast live on RTÉ from Semple Stadium and the Gaelic Grounds respectively, it’s important that the game is advertised on the biggest stages going forward. 

At the ‘Go Together’ campaign launch.

Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

And with the Camogie Association calling on supporters to ‘Go Together’ as they aim to break 25,000 All-Ireland final day attendance at Croke Park on the second Sunday in September, every little helps. Camogie is pushing on.

“It is,” she agrees. “Especially this Go Together campaign, hopefully now we’ll get the numbers to the matches.

“Especially in the past year, the promotion of women’s sport has been super; online, social media, TV; it’s brilliant. Even the Women’s World Cup to be televised — and you’re seeing players that you’ve never seen before, it’s great.

“You hear kids talking like, ‘Did you see her?’ It’s brilliant. Having the media behind us promoting it is great.

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“That’s what’s going to encourage young kids to take up the sport,” she concludes.

“It’s all social media now and TV, that’s what the youth are brought up in, so when they see camogie on that it’s great. They’re encouraged to play that way and it’s great.”

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