'This is what you dream about. To be there as captain is something that will always stay with me'

Naomh Pól and Antrim star Áine Tubridy’s dream becomes reality when she leads her club into an All-Ireland final this weekend.

Naomh Pól captain Aine Tubridy.
Naomh Pól captain Aine Tubridy.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

BREFFNI PARK THROWS up treasured memories for Naomh Pól captain Áine Tubridy, and she’s hoping to create a few more at the Cavan venue this weekend.

While others were stressed out trying to make alternative arrangements due to the late switch from Parnell Park, Antrim star Tubridy was over the moon with the new venue for the 2019 All-Ireland ladies football intermediate club final. 

It’s a special ground for her; she captained her side to the All-Ireland U14 Féile crown there. Now, she’s hoping to lead the Belfast outfit — and many of those she soldiered with from that Féile-winning team all the way up — to a first senior national title.

As she starts talking about Saturday’s showdown with Offaly kingpins Naomh Ciarán [throw-in 2.30pm, live on LGFA Facebook Page], another memory from her teenage years comes flooding back. 

While she’s “absolutely buzzing” to be preparing for an All-Ireland final, getting over the line in the semi-final was incredible in itself for Tubridy.

“We were in the same position 10 years ago,” she explains. “We were in the All-Ireland semi-final and got beat. This year, just to go one further, and obviously being captain and being here is just unbelievable. I can’t even put it into words, really.”

The tender age of 14 back then, Tubridy is one of three current players — alongside county duo Maiéad Cooper and Kirsty McGuinness, the latter plays soccer for Northern Ireland and Linfield –  who were part of that team 10 years ago.

aine-tubridy Tubridy in action against Roscommon in the 16 TG4 Ladies Junior All-Ireland Championship Final. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“It was good experience and it’s obviously stood by me for now. It was amazing,” 24-year-old Tubridy recalls, before switching her mind to this year’s All-Ireland semi-final.

“After the game we didn’t know whether to cry or to celebrate because it was mixed emotions. We felt for St Nathy’s big time because it was the same result for us — getting beat by a point 10 years ago. To get to the final is just amazing this year. 

“We’ve already kind of made history: we’re the first club in Antrim ladies football to get this far, obviously to an All-Ireland. We’ve made history regardless of the result but it would just be nice to get that extra wee bit…

“This would be our fifth trophy we’d lift this year if we do win, it would be nice, it really would.”

2019 has been one hell of a journey so far for Naomh Pól, who recently won their eighth Antrim senior championship title in-a-row and their tenth consecutive league crown.

pauls After winning the Ulster crown. Source: Naomh Pol Twitter.

Meanwhile, a drop to the intermediate grade at provincial level meant they bridged a 10-year gap for Ulster glory. 

“I feel that dropping to the intermediate has definitely counted,” Tubridy continues.

“Obviously we were in senior and maybe it was just one step too much for us. This year, the idea behind it was to hopefully do well in Ulster and here, and that would leave us a wee bit of momentum going into senior next year.

“The achievement would leave us in better stead for the senior.”

That it has, especially considering the amount of younger players on the team — “There’s a lot of young girls starting on our team. Maybe the older ones with that bit of experience are on the panel but the juveniles are taking over,” she laughs, explaining a little about the set-up.

“We were just doing the juvenile presentation there and they’ve actually had to separate it into two separate slots because there’s so many kids playing.

pol Celebrating eight-in-a-row in Antrim. Source: Naomh Pól Twitter.

“It would be a big club but everyone at the club at the minute is just buzzing. They can’t help us enough with the support; organising buses, organising gear for us, our committee’s been amazing. Everybody’s just really buzzing for the final.”

There’s plenty of family involvement, Tubridy notes, naming the Cooper sisters, the McGuinness’, the Roxys. It really is a tight-knit team.

And that’s what it’s all about, the PE teacher agrees.

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She’s donned the Saffron of Anrim for quite some time now, but nothing compares to club at the end of the day.

“That’s it,” Tubridy nods. “Obviously I’ve been in All-Irelands before with the county and it’s an amazing achievement even to get there.

“But this is what you dream about when you’re young: to be in an All-Ireland with your club is just something different. It’s that wee bit extra special.”

ladies Tubridy and Naomh Ciaran star Amy Gavin Mangan (far right). Source: Sportsfile.

“It’s amazing, especially our team,” she concludes on the honour of being captain, let alone skippering her side in an All-Ireland club final. “There’s so much talent in the team and so many leaders.

“To be chosen as captain of such a talented bunch, it was a big honour. This is stuff that I would have dreamed about: being in an All-Ireland, because people go through their careers never getting here.

“To be there as captain, it’s something that will always stay with me. Big time.”

Big time, indeed.

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