by Daragh Ó Conchúir
Erinn Galligan’s personality explodes from the other end of the line. It is easy to understand why she is captain of the Cavan Camogie team aiming to make up for lost time after a decade away from competition by bagging a second All-Ireland title in three weeks.
They face Armagh in the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Premier Junior Championship Final on home territory in Kingspan Breffni this afternoon (1.45pm), as part of a double header with the Intermediate decider involving Antrim and Down that will be televised live on the RTÉ News Channel and streamed on both the RTÉ Player and BBC iPlayer.
Listening not just to the words as Galligan refers repeatedly to the love of and enthusiasm for Camogie, and the appreciation for the endeavours of many unsung people who have contributed over the years to this turnaround in fortunes, but the tonality, flow and expression of those words that affirm their genuineness, it becomes clear that you would follow the Crosserlough ace through the gates of hell with your chest out and a smile on your face.
This is someone who knew All-Ireland success before, as part of the Cavan ladies’ football team that claimed an Intermediate title in 2013.
But the 33-year-old only made her adult Camogie debut for the county this year, having placed emphasis on the bigger ball when last there was a team 10 years ago. Indeed, during her late teens and early 20s, she didn’t play Camogie at all.
“I started off first playing Camogie at eight or nine years of age in primary school,” explains Galligan. “My mother was the trainer.
“Football took over for me though and I started playing county at Under 14 and Under 16 and I got really into that. Camogie took a back seat, so it wasn’t until about seven years ago that I went back playing with the club Crosserlough when I stopped the county football and I fell back in love with it then.
“To have the opportunity in my later years to represent Cavan Camogie is a dream come true.”
These are heady days for Cavan Gaels, a welcome boost in a county that has suffered more than most due to COVID-19. As a pharmacist, Galligan has witnessed people’s concerns. Sport wasn’t important in that scheme of things, but it has been a tremendous boost, not least as the footballers downed hot favourites Donegal to claim the Ulster title for the first time in 23 years.
“It was amazing. I was just so delighted for the lads, such a gutsy performance and against all odds. It was such a great story. Between them and Tipperary, it was a mighty day. It’s what the GAA is all about, to see the delight on the lads’ faces.”
That the boss, Paul O’Donnell is a Donegal man was an added bonus. There was a lot of slagging on Monday one imagines.
“On Monday? It’s going on still!”
There are just nine Camogie clubs in Cavan but as the Irish seanfhocal goes, Ní neart go gur le chéile. There is no strength without unity.
“When Cavan stopped competing at county level, it was just due to some of our stronger girls not being able to commit to the county scene and some committing to the football. It just wasn’t working. The county board maybe wasn’t at its strongest, we just maybe didn’t have the right crew in there, not to be running them down.
“But in the last few years, we’ve got a great crew in at the county board, the girls are hungry, we’re all dying to get out competing at national level. We have young ones and old ones all just very enthusiastic and loving to play for Cavan. The county board have done everything for us, getting us kitted out, getting facilities, getting management in place. They’re a great bunch and we owe the county board.
“Us getting to the Final is the fruits of work by a lot of people in the background.”
The manager, Jimmy Greville is a brother of Johnny, who stewarded Westmeath’s journey from Premier Junior to Senior. He served as a selector when the Intermediate crown was annexed by his native county last year and has had a huge impact with this season’s Championship newcomers.
After a tough pre-season, Cavan signalled their return with a stunning 15-point defeat of Roscommon in Division 3 of the National League and with with two wins from three outings, the mood was exultant. That turned to deflation with the cessation of activity, however.
“It was so disappointing when we got news it was going to be pulled. We started back in November, a new team for the first time in years. We were just finding our feet. We had done the gym, had done the runs and the hard stamina training in winter and were all looking forward to getting out and playing.
“We had the opportunity to get the three weekends in and see where we were. We were actually going well and were quite impressed with ourselves, how well we had performed in those games.
“Then the games were going to be pulled as a result of COVID and it went on for months. We tried to keep it together with Zoom sessions and a few skill sessions but it’s not the same as bouncing off people and the camaraderie that’s in the group at training in Breffni.
“But we came back and regrouped. We got together and night after night you could see the camaraderie and the buzz getting back again. Girls were just hungry as ever to get back playing. When the opportunity arose then to compete in the Nancy Murray, we were all delighted. It’s taken a life of its own again post-COVID, thank God.”
They were by far the best team in the competition, clocking up 10-31 in three outings for Galligan to be presented with the Nancy Murray Cup.
With no second teams allowed compete due to government regulations, the two finalists progressed to the last four of the Premier Junior Championship. Tyrone gave Armagh a real fright but Cavan made light work of Roscommon once more, riding the joyful wave of positive momentum.
“It’s just been week after week of positive results, positive outcomes, good performances. But the girls have done the work. The girls, the management, the county board, we’re blessed. We’ve just got a great crew of people. We mightn’t have the volume of people that some counties might have but we have pure quality of people there. People that are enthusiastic and hungry for Cavan Camogie to do well. It’s a good story.
“When we set out in November, the Nancy Murray was what we had our eye on, to get to that and please God win it. But you could see in the girls the talent and pure enthusiasm and desire to play to their best. When we were playing in those League games, we could see the performances we were putting in against better teams.
“We just maybe got a little bit greedy but confident in ourselves, maybe we are better than what we think we are, maybe we have potential to compete in a Premier Junior competition… and here we are now in another All-Ireland Final.”
Not for a second will Galligan take it for granted.
“Really looking forward to it now, in capital letters! Buzzing. Just so lucky to have the opportunities to compete in All-Irelands. I’m just so happy for us to get this far. I can see the spadework that’s been done with Cavan Camogie over the last good few years with underage – there’s a lot of people within the county that love their Camogie and are just so happy to see us at this level. There are people that mightn’t be involved in the minute have put in the effort over the years that might have gone unseen or unnoticed, but us getting this far is some repayment for that.
“I’m grateful to be given the opportunity to compete in an All-Ireland, to give thanks to all those people that maybe have never seen any fruits of their work.
“There is no pressure on us but we do set standards for ourselves within the camp and we have goals for ourselves. We are pretty goal-driven so once we’re reaching those goals, the performance should look after ourselves. As long as we do ourselves justice, we’ll be happy.”Tweet