by Daragh Small
Her 57th and final student completed their GCSEs yesterday and now Katy Herron can finally breathe a sigh of relief.
Well, momentarily anyway. Tomorrow (SAT), she travels to Kingspan Breffni in Cavan with the rest of her Donegal teammates, where they will look to begin the defence of their TG4 Ulster Championship with a win over Tyrone (6.45pm).
The 29-year-old midfielder has come a long way since the days she mastered her wonderful footwork and agility chasing livestock back in Glenfin.
“When you are living in the country you are either playing some sport or stuck out on the farm,” said Herron.
“We grew up on a farm. Dad has a sheep farm just beside us at home. That would have been a big part of our youth. Farming and out messing about with the football.
“We had a few pet lambs. It was far better out catching them than being stuck in the house doing housework for Mammy with no help! We went out and helped catch the lambs instead.
“Catching lambs is great exercise, or we’d go to the bog then and pick up the turf as well.
“We had a very active childhood.”
Herron came from a very big household, too. She has five sisters and one brother. They all followed their father Seamus’ love for Gaelic Football but Katy is the only one left playing at senior inter-county level.
Her sisters Mari and Sara also represented Donegal, but eight years after her inter-county debut, Herron is still steeped in the sport.
Herron is a secondary school teacher by trade, Maths and PE are her two subjects, and she teaches at Holy Cross College in Strabane, a mixed school of 1,500 pupils.
“They would come into me panicking,” said Herron.
“You want to do as much work as you can for them but you can’t be seen to be panicking.
“It can be quite stressful getting everything organised, keeping everyone on their toes, and having all of your resources ready for them so they are not going looking for things.”
But the stress release that comes with seeing another crop head for pastures new, will soon be forgotten when Herron takes to the field on Saturday.
Last year’s TG4 All-Ireland Intermediate Championship winners Tyrone are new to the Ulster senior ranks – but they will see this as an opportunity.
Donegal reached the final four in Division 1 of the Lidl National League this year, Tyrone finished second from bottom in Division 2, but Herron is ready for battle.
“Everyone thought we had a very good League, getting to a semi-final. But we weren’t happy with our last couple of performances towards the end,” said Herron.
“We started brilliant and then it tapered out. We wouldn’t have been happy with those games. In that respect Saturday is massive. We need to kickstart our championship.
“With the draw it was our luck that we would have got Tyrone. It’s the extra game and they are coming up from intermediate as champions. They are looking to make their mark. They are going to come out and show everyone they deserve to be senior.
“It is hard for us because we are going in as favourites. We haven’t been exposed to too many of their games this year. We are a wee bit uneducated as to where they are at.
“But we expect a battle.”
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