St Val's Aoife Plunkett is proud to be called an ‘Underdog’

St Val's Aoife Plunkett is proud to be called an ‘Underdog’

St Val's player Aoife Plunkett, on the far right in the second row, with her Underdogs team-mates. They are scheduled to play All-Ireland Meath in December.

ST Val's footballer Aoife Plunkett is looking forward to representing the Underdogs when they play All-Ireland champions, Meath, in a glamour tie to be played in December.

The former Cork minor footballer came through a plethora of trial games to make the final Underdogs squad following a rigorous selection process. She decided to embark on the Underdogs challenge as it is a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity. ’ 

“I tried out for the Underdogs this year as I’ve always watched the lads in previous seasons and I always said that if it came to the women’s turn I would throw my hand at it. 

"I see it as a personal challenge and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It’s a chance to prove yourself and to showcase what skills and ability a person has,” she said.

The talented footballer has enjoyed the process to date. She has particularly enjoyed meeting up with the panel of players for training camps which has enabled her to experience different challenges outside of football. 

A knee injury sustained on club duty hindered her progress for a few weeks, but she feels she has improved as a player since pursuing the Underdogs experience. 

“I am delighted I went for trials and that I made the final panel. Over the course of the camps which take place each month, we get to go and see different places over the country and experience different challenges outside of football. 

"I would say I have improved as a player from my experience with the Underdogs, but not as much as I would like after sustaining ligament damage in my knee during a club championship game. This ensured I was out for a good few weeks and that obviously affected my football and fitness.” 

The Underdogs this year are guided by a very strong management team which comprises former Kerry senior football player and manager Mickey Ned O’Sullivan, former Donegal senior player Kevin Cassidy, and former Waterford senior player Michelle Ryan. 

St Val's player Aoife Plunkett, far, with her Underdogs team-mates.
St Val's player Aoife Plunkett, far, with her Underdogs team-mates.

“The standards at the trials were very high with over a few hundred applications. I couldn't believe my luck when I found out I made the squad. It was a great feeling to get the good news that I had been selected. It was very daunting and I was quite nervous going in to meet the management team to see if I made the squad or not.

“It has been a positive relationship to date between the players and the management team. They have plenty of experience from playing and coaching at the highest level. We are learning so much from them. They know exactly what it takes to get to that stage,” she added.

Plunkett, who is 27-years-old, has enjoyed a very distinguished club career with her beloved club St Val's who are based in Kilmurry and is proud to them on the national stage.

She is particularly grateful to all within the club who have been a huge support to the Plunkett family since the death of her younger sister Sinéad over 18 months ago. 

“I’m very proud to be representing my club St Val's on the national stage. I couldn’t be a part of a better club both on and off the pitch. Without the support of my club, I wouldn’t be in the position that I’m in now. 

"My younger sister Sinéad, unfortunately, passed away over a year and a half ago. We would’ve both played together and my club has been a massive support to myself and to my family since. It just shows what the GAA is all about. I’m doing this also in memory of my sister but also as a token of gratitude to my great club.” 

She works as a pharmacy technician with Phelan’s Pharmacy and is very grateful to her employers for their help throughout her Underdogs journey. She is also delighted to be joined by two other Cork players on the Underdogs panel in Áine Cronin from Éire Óg and Rachel Sheehan from Passage West. 

“My employers have been very accommodating with my work schedule in relation to my weekends away on training camps. The process requires a big commitment from all the players, but it is one we knew about when we started out on our journey. 

"It’s only on for six months and the time has just flown by. I’m delighted the two other Cork girls got through. I wouldn’t have known them previously, but we always travel together 

"We have become the Three Amigos. You just wouldn’t want to depend on them to give you any directions!” 

SHe is looking forward to playing current All-Ireland champions Meath who recently picked up eight All-Stars. 

“I am looking forward to playing Meath and it will be an experience. We have massive respect for Meath. They are a serious outfit and play lovely football. They work very hard and their fitness is just unreal.” 

Plunkett, who won a Munster championship title with the Cork minors back in 2013, would thoroughly recommend the Underdogs journey to any player thinking of going down that route. 

“It is a great experience and opportunity. I would 100% recommend the Underdogs to any aspiring players as it’s an unforgettable experience. You get to meet some incredible people with different life stories. You also get to throw your hand up and do something for yourself.”

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