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'It's only when you're back that you realise what you had lost'

With injury woes in the rearview mirror, Dora Gorman is hoping to finish her first full season back at Peamount with league glory.

THE SEASON IS far from over yet, with all eyes on this all-important final weekend, but as Dora Gorman reflects, it all hits home.

dora-gorman Peamount star Dora Gorman ahead of last year's FAI Cup final. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Peamount United’s title decider is put to one side, as we take a few minutes to look back on a successful 2021 Women’s National League [WNL] season across the board, and mid-answer, you can almost hear Gorman smiling down the phone.

“I’ve really enjoyed it, personally,” she tells The42. “I’ve really felt I’ve kind of got up to pace with it and I’ve been playing now for the second half of the season. On a personal level, I’ve been very happy.”

An Irish football and hockey international, an accomplished Gaelic football star, and a doctor, Gorman is a really impressive character.

Her exploits and achievements both on and off the field only scratch the surface though; her nightmare run of injuries over the past few years requiring remarkable resilience and optimism, and ultimately resulting in a triumph over adversity.

This season was the Galway native’s first full one back in the WNL, having taken small steps in the latter end of the 2020 campaign after four years out.

“It’s funny, it’s only when you’re back when you almost realise what you’d lost and what you didn’t have: to be back in that team environment and back playing. I can’t remember the last time I’ve had a season where I haven’t had an injury that’s taken me out for a few weeks or anything like that.

“I had a number of years where I had a bad time. I initially tore my hamstring off the bone back in 2012 and didn’t have surgery. I kind of struggled for years with it, it never really healed properly and then it happened again and I had the surgery back in May of 2019.

“It was a long recovery period but it’s felt better than it ever has now which is fantastic. Before I had the surgery, I’d go to six weeks and it would get worse. There was that constant cycle of up and down, and I kind of thought that was just going to be the case.”

While she had parked top-level Gaelic games to pursue the many other strings to her bow, Gorman returned to those roots as she tried her best to manage her hamstring.

The 28-year-old found it “a little bit easier” on her, the muscle pushed to the limit due to the fine movements, and twisting and turning, in soccer, and then causing her issues so often.

She renewed her involvement with the Galway panel but says she was “never fully back to it” as she was always carrying the burden, and her hamstring eventually fully broke down again, ultimately leading to surgery in the UK.

dora-gorman Gorman on the ball for Galway in 2010. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“I couldn’t speak more highly of how they did over there and the results I got with it, it’s been a testament to it, that it has held up over the season after having some tough games in close succession.

“It was a tough recovery and a tough rehab phase but it’s great to be on the other side and to see you can get through. And even for something that goes on for years, it can get better.

“Different people have different injuries, different experiences. I was very happy with it and I would recommend it if people are struggling. It was a tough one to get back from but it’s great to be here now and to be where I am with it.

“I wouldn’t even notice it in games now. I never really thought that would be the case.”

With her positivity glaringly evident throughout our conversation, she’d rather focus on the present and future than dwell on the past.

And given the fact that she has stayed injury-free in her first full season back with Peamount is a win in itself, regardless of what happens this weekend.

“You get to a point when you have injuries where you almost don’t care how, you just want to be playing and you want to be able to get through,” she nods. “That, for me this season, was really big. It was kind of the cherry on top that I was able to get up to speed and form, be able to compete and be able to play a role in the league.

“It’s been really, really good and I’ve really enjoyed it. Peamount is a great club and a great team. They welcomed me back and they were very good to me.”

After all, it’s where she first played when she moved up to Dublin for college — helping Peas win the inaugural WNL title in 2011/12 — so the reunion was a special one.

Solely focusing on football now despite her colourful and dynamic sporting background, Gorman laughs that there comes a point where one can’t do everything, especially given her busy and demanding, but enjoyable, work schedule in The Mater Hospital.

“I’m not 17 or 18 and I can’t do everything I want to do,” she grins. “Soccer was always such a big part of my life growing up as well, and it was a natural one to come back to when I was able to play again.

“I’d love to be playing everything if I could, but at the moment I’m keeping going with the soccer. It’s keeping me busy and I’m really enjoying it, and hoping to finish [the season] on a high at the weekend.”

dora Dr Dora Gorman is an all-rounder. Source: Women's National League.

Her excitement shines through as she looks towards it: Peamount hosting Galway, and Shelbourne also entertaining Wexford Youths at 7.30pm tonight, with the title on the line.

Gorman’s Peas are firmly in the driving seat, having been frustrated by the “fantastic” DLR Waves last weekend, with a win ensuring the champagne comes off ice and the three in-a-row is completed.

But second-placed Shelbourne will be ready to pounce across the city in their FAI Cup final dress rehearsal, and as we all know, anything can happen in football.

“This is where you want to be at the end of the season, in a title race and in it to win it at the end,” Gorman nods. “It is a testament to how strong the league is, that it’s coming down to the wire, the last game. It’s good for the competition, the publicity, the exposure, it’s good for everyone.

“Obviously, we wouldn’t have said no to not have that pressure on, but when you play at this level, you welcome the pressure. It’s exciting for everyone involved.”

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“It’s still in our hands, and it’s up to us really to put in the performance,” she adds.

“We’re in a lucky position that we just have focus on our game. If we do our job, if we win, then we win the league. We just have to focus on that, we don’t even have to think about any other game that’s going on.

“It’s great for the league to have them both at the same time, it’s good for live streaming and everything. It makes it exciting that there’s two big games going on at the same time.”

She knows Peamount certainly need to produce their “best performance” to see off her native Galway, who are bouncing back brilliantly from an up-and-down 2021 which brought a mid-season managerial change. She highlights their strong underage structures – their U19s won the league – their international talent from Savannah McCarthy to the returning Julie Ann Russell and Maebh de Burca, and their welcome blend of youth and experience.

“They’re very strong team and you’d be foolish to underestimate them. They put it up to every team, on their day they’re capable of beating anyone really.”

As is the case for most teams on any given day in the league; competition at the top, in particular, fierce.

The 2021 season has been a long one, Gorman concedes, with no shortage of swings and roundabouts, ups and downs, with momentum swinging different ways and players coming and going.

“It’s been a great season,” she reflects. “I think the promotion of the league and women’s football in Ireland has definitely taken a step up this year with all the different media outlets covering it, LOI TV and TG4 showing the games.

“I’ve even noticed in work and things like that, a lot of people are following it, hearing the results, they know what’s going on and how it’s going. The Irish girls, that exposure has helped as well with the domestic game.

“From a footballing point-of-view and also from an exposure point-of-view, it’s been a successful season. It’s been difficult dealing with Covid during it, with the the lack of crowds and restrictions. There’s obviously still areas to work on but I think as a whole, the season’s been very good, and progressive for football as a whole.”

And for Peamount specifically? Again, great. “I mean in pre-season, if you’d said that we had a home game that we had to win to win the league, we’d have bitten your hand off,” she concludes.

“We have to look at it like that. We can be disappointed that we didn’t do it last week, but looking at the season as a whole, to be in this position, knowing the strength of the other teams around, we’d have been very happy with that.”

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Emma Duffy

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