AFTER two decades of playing with her beloved club Courcey Rovers, veteran Christine O’Neill is still in search of her first county medal and believes this could be their year.
Although returning from a knee injury, the 29-year-old business teacher hopes she can make the starting 15 as her side face an in-form Barrs
Playing with Courceys since the age of seven, she has seen the club evolve over the years and is now thrilled with the professionalism shown by management and players.
“The team has evolved hugely over the last number of years. We suffered massive defeats and without the help of previous trainers Diarmuid Corcoran, Shirley Maloney, Brian Hayes and Jon Hynes taking us on in the last few years I think we would still be there.
“It has taken us a very long time to get where we are. I think the county final last year has shown us what it’s like to dine at the top table and we don’t want to give up our spot there just yet.
“As a team we are closer than ever as a unit. We all get along so well. The Lip Sync in Courceys has bonded us over the last two years which enabled us to let our hair down and have fun representing the team off the pitch for a change. We also picked up a few dance moves along the way that may be seen as a slicker sidestep!”
Last year they did very well in the league and fell short to a strong Bars team in the semi-final. That set them up for a strong championship campaign. “The games were exciting, high intensity and hugely competitive. I genuinely loved every minute, except for the county final of course.
“This year has been very different so far. We didn’t win very many league games, we were missing a lot of girls for matches due to injuries, intercounty and college commitments.
“We have trained hard throughout the summer. We have seven girls that represented us in inter-county teams this year. We are so proud of them. This meant that the numbers at training were a bit slacker but Mick is a great motivator though and has kept us going throughout the summer.”
Their squad has changed slightly this year. They are down three key players: Sara Hayes, Karen Kehone and Jacinta Crowley.
“We have great young girls after coming through like Ellen Maguire, Lorraine and Ann-Marie Collins and Grace O’Reilly along with a few more. They bring quickness and a new intensity to training. The squad is competitive. Sinead O’Reilly is flying in goal, Ciara Hayes is playing with a wonderful freshness and Aishling Maloney is keeping the backs on track.”
O’Neill expects a savage battle from St Finbarr’s.
“The Barrs play every match like it’s their last. They work very hard, they are good tacklers and are physically very strong. They have great leaders in Gemma O’Connor and Lynda O’Connell We are going to have to put in one hell of an hour. We played them last year in the league semi-final and we were pushed off the ball time and time again. We didn’t match the intensity wise either so will we need to bring that with us.“
She feels that in the Cork senior camogie championship, every team is capable of beating everyone else.
“I think the Barrs, the Glen, Killeagh and of course the deadly Inniscarra are the ones to watch this season. In saying that, our squad is well prepared.
“We have an excellent management side who have us well organised. Mick is the boss and is camogie mad. He just loves the game.
“He travels down from Carrigtwohill three times a week to train us, we are so grateful for that. He asks for nothing from us only that we train and play hard.
“Kevin Hannon is the camogie guru. Kevin is an absolute gentleman. He has three daughters playing on the team and to be honest he is like a father to all of us. He would go to the end of the earth for Courceys.
“Gail Nolan and Geraldine Collins are two mighty women. Always making sure everyone is okay.
“Joey Gallagher’s job is to tell us all how great we are. He is the most positive person in the camp. Every team needs a Joey! Let’s hope his positivity can be spread out across the pitch when we play the Barrs.”