By Daragh Ó Conchúir
You are what you eat, the saying goes, and Róisín McCormick certainly espouses that theory.
The Antrim attacking star hopes to be part of a high performance set-up in a professional capacity in the future. She’s not calling for camogie to be a full-time, paid pursuit, though I’m sure she wouldn’t object given she would be one of the most marketable players in the game with her array of skills and cold-blooded finishing ability.
But high performance sport attracts full-time, professional sports coaches and support staff and McCormick’s ambition is to be involved in that sort of environment on a day-to-day basis.
The just-turned 22-year-old has a year to go on a Sports Science degree at TUD, who she helped win a historic first Ashbourne Cup last February with the victorious point from a free in extra time against UCC. She is planning on pursuing a Masters in Sports Nutrition thereafter. Conveniently for training, as the Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championships get into full swing, McCormick is now on a placement in Belfast with MoveTru, helping in the development of a performance tracker/injury prevention device.
“We are currently focusing on injury prevention of ACL ruptures and sagittal plane movement patterns,” McCormick explains. “It’s fascinating.”
And important, especially given the pandemic for ACL ruptures in female sportspeople and until recently, the lack of knowledge surrounding the reasons for that. But ground is being made.
Significant strides have been made too in terms of the use of professional expertise to prepare and condition camogie teams.
“The whole sports science aspect behind all the teams is definitely making a difference and I suppose more research is being done into women’s sports. We are a lot different to males so obviously that research is helping us. You can see it, the last few camogie seasons, there is a massive difference in speed, agility, strength and skills. It’s impacted so much on the game. It’s the way forward.
“It was common knowledge that female sportspeople were them few years behind but the last few years, the more it’s been looked at and the more that’s being done with tests and research, it’s good to see it evolving.”
As GAA has clearly demonstrated, the deepest pockets that can avail of more of these services tend to prevail. Antrim have worked very hard to provide players with what they need.
“For a few years, just before I came into the senior set-up, the Antrim team took a dip. A few girls stopped showing up and the numbers were struggling. (But) the development, from U14 upwards to minor is excellent in Antrim. The last couple of All-Ireland wins for the junior and intermediate team – now the senior team obviously – has definitely influenced a lot of the younger camogiers to step into the county scene and hopefully develop.
“There’s a lot more going on behind the scenes now thanks to those wins that helps. We did struggle for a few years with sponsors and bringing in money but there’s a lot of fundraising gone on in the last few years and then the likes of new sponsorship being brought in, the likes of Team Kit and stuff, so definitely it’s making a difference.
“A lot of conditioning and various coaching and supports take a lot of money but there is loads the county board would be doing to make sure we get that and we can perform with the best.”
Again, this is imperative. Because Antrim is a county going places and they are putting the foundations in place to try to ensure it is for the long haul.
They county has garner four out of the last six second-tier minor championships, McCormick herself playing in the 2017 and 2018 triumphs. She was also front and centre as Cross & Passion reached All-Ireland junior and two senior A colleges’ finals from 2017 to 2018.
Maeve Kelly dovetailed neatly with McCormick at school and county through the various levels and they scored 1-14 between them when Antrim won the All-Ireland intermediate title in 2021.
And last year, after fielding a second team for the first time, the Saffrons won the premier junior title, while McCormick’s Loughgiel Shamrocks ended Slaughtneil’s lengthy Ulster domination before just falling short to Sarsfields in the All-Ireland final.
Unfortunately Kelly, player of the match in Antrim’s intermediate final victory, missed last year’s senior championship return through injury and won’t play any part this term either. But yet they more than held their own 12 months ago and victory over Offaly at the Roger Casements grounds in Portglenone this afternoon (3pm throw-in), will assure them of a knockout berth.
“At school, between myself, Anna Connolly and a few others, we won eight or nine Ulster titles. We were playing county and club up together. Same with Amy Boyle. I would have been in U14 winning teams with her when she was captain. We’d won plenty of championships between school and club and we all just went to county together.
“The amount of experience we got at underage made a difference. The wins were great and it influenced you to work harder towards the next one. You don’t like losing after you start winning. You just stay on that ground and we’ve taken that up to the senior ranks now.”
Underage success has been known to work the other way too of course but a desire to have Antrim mixing it with the elite of camogie ensures that the work ethic will never dull. That and the continuing conveyor belt of fresh blood that has seen supreme talents such as Áine Magill and Fionnuala Kelly, sister of Maeve, filter through.
But they are unseasoned at this level and so losing to Limerick last year when most expected them to prevail, was a valuable lesson.
“We have the ability. We did lack the experience of other teams. We were playing intermediate league last year and then going into senior championship and it’s just a completely different ball game. We did adapt and we did play well in the first few rounds of the round-robin but the Limerick match, we went in too complacent and on the day, we never really showed up.
“We just got ahead of ourselves, thinking that if we beat Limerick, we would be through to a quarter-final whereas this year, we’re not looking forward to any of that. We’re just looking to Offaly this weekend, putting all focus on that and take it as it comes.”
Again, they are favourites on home turf after gaining revenge on Limerick with a four-point triumph in Dunloy a fortnight ago, on a day when Offaly lost by 20 points to Waterford. They also got the better of the Faithful when ending a more than four-decade absence from the senior grade in style this time last year, when McCormick scored 1-8. But the teams drew in the League most recently so while self-belief is sky high, lessons of the past have been taken on board.
“We’re all looking forward to the game. We’ve been training well the last few weeks. We know Offaly have a great deal of players that are well able and we’ll have to go out and put a performance in.
“We’re aiming to win for comfort level as you do know if you do, you’re into a quarter-final (at least). That’s not what we’re thinking about, we just have to focus on the win but it’s obviously in the knowledge that if we win this, it leads to the bigger stage.”