by Daragh Ó Conchúir
RACHEL FITZMAURICE only turned 20 in January but her sporting CV is already a tome of considerable bulk.
An All-Ireland winner with her secondary school Convent of Mercy, Roscommon in Camogie, soccer and futsal, and with the county in Minor C Camogie, she has appeared in eight All-Ireland Finals in all.
Fitzmaurice has known defeat in the school colours too, as well as with Roscommon in the All-Ireland Premier Junior Camogie Final at Croke Park in 2015 and the Minor B decider the following year. At club level, she played for Athleague in the Junior Club Camogie Final in 2015, having lined out for St Ciarán’s in the Junior Club ladies football decider the previous season.
The first year engineering student at NUIG also represented the Republic of Ireland at Under 15 level in 2013.
So, it is fair to say, that she is accustomed to the big occasion and that Sunday’s Littlewoods Ireland Camogie Leagues Division 3 Final against Kerry will not faze her.
“I’m kind of used to them at this stage” Fitzmaurice says. “I will be a bit nervous but I’m sure I’ll find it easier than if it was my first ever Final.”
Nerves definitely played a part as she lined out at midfield in Croke Park almost three years ago now. Laois pulled away for a nine-point victory in the end but it didn’t stop her winning a Soaring Stars award that season.
She no longer plays soccer but is contemplating returning to it with NUIG next year. She was only introduced to the game in secondary school but having prospered there and with no club in the county, joined Salthill Devon in Galway.
International recognition followed. Current Senior squad member, Amanda McQuillan was a teammate with Ireland.
“It was cool. I enjoyed it very much. It was a different experience, a different atmosphere that it was international. I think I’d like to do that again and if I had more time, I’d have a better shot at it. I’d love to get back to it but it’s kind of hard to play it with football and Camogie as well.”
Soccer was cut once Fitzmaurice went into sixth year and studying for the Leaving Cert became a priority, but she has no intention of choosing between the Gaelic Games codes and continues to represent Roscommon in Camogie and ladies football. Little wonder former Cork dual star, Briege Corkery is an idol.
“She played Senior in both. I’m playing Junior and Intermediate so it shouldn’t be that big a task and I don’t think it is. I’ll take it how it goes and keep playing the two of them. I love playing the both of them and I couldn’t pick between either. If I was asked to pick just one for the year, I don’t think I could.”
She acknowledges the co-operation of club and county management teams in facilitating her and clubmate Laura Fleming, herself a dual operator.
“The football manager would let us go to Camogie if there was a more important match coming up and the same the other way, rather than having too many tough training sessions during the week. They are very good and understanding.”
It was interesting to note the coverage given to the Senior women’s soccer team ahead of their World Cup qualifier against Holland during the week. Fitzmaurice welcomes what she views as a gradual improvement in the profile of women’s sport across the board.
“I’ve noticed a lot more promotion in the last few years. It’s brilliant. Even in the local newspapers, you’d see we’d get the few pages as well if there was an important match coming up and there’s a report on all the county matches and it’s good to see that.”
Brian Griffin and Paul Feeney have come in with Roscommon this year, after Noel Finn, Noel Murphy and Ciara Moran concluded three years at the helm. A number of long-serving players have retired and Fitzmaurice is suddenly moving up the ranks in terms of experience, as many of her former Minor teammates step into the fold.
“It’s quite a young team this year. There’s loads of Minors and girls my age. I would have been the youngest last year and the year before, but now there’s loads of girls younger than me.”
The Rossies have lost the last two Division 3 Finals but that is not a concern for Fitzmaurice.
“With new management, they wouldn’t be focusing on that. The players might have thought about it but we beat Kerry in the Semi-Final last year. We were level in the group game, that was a tight match, but we have a good chance and we won’t be negative about losing the last two Finals.
“If we work hard for one another and do our jobs, we can’t do anything more.”
Sunday April 15th
Littlewoods Ireland Camogie Leagues Division 2, Group 2
Armagh v Laois, Granemore GAA @ 12.30pm
Littlewoods Ireland Camogie Leagues Division 3 Final
Kerry v Roscommon, The Ragg, Co. Tipperary @ 2pm