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'We're hungry for more after getting that bit of silverware' - All-Ireland semi up next in comeback year

Erinn Galligan and the Cavan camogie team returned to inter-county action this year after almost a decade out.

Cavan camogie captain Erinn Galligan lifting the Nancy Murray Cup last weekend.
Cavan camogie captain Erinn Galligan lifting the Nancy Murray Cup last weekend.
Image: ©INPHO

AFTER ACHIEVING THEIR goal, the Cavan camogie team are hungry for more in their first year back after almost a decade in the wilderness.

“It was a great feeling alright,” captain Erinn Galligan smiles after lifting the Nancy Murray Cup and tasting some long-awaited inter-county success last weekend.

“At the beginning of the year when we were setting up with Cavan camogie, we had the Nancy Murray competition in our minds. Our goal was to reach it and ultimately win it.

“When we eventually did that on Saturday, we feel like we ticked a box that we had set at the beginning of the year. There’s serious satisfaction in that, but I suppose now that we know that we are going through into the Premier Junior, you’re always wanting that little bit more. We’re hungry now to get even another win under our belts on Saturday.”

An All-Ireland semi-final lies ahead after the 2-14 to 1-3 decider victory over Tyrone, Roscommon their opponents in the next assignment tomorrow [throw-in 1.30pm]. A huge step-up indeed, but it’s one the Breffni are relishing, having made their return to inter-county action earlier this year.

This is bonus territory after all, but they’re certainly not going to back down.

“It’ll be a big ask, a big task but we’re hungry for more now after getting that bit of silverware. We won comprehensively against Tyrone and I feel within the team there’s this air of, ‘We want to be playing bigger, better, even more competitive games against better teams and see where we really are.’

“Because there was such a gap between us and Tyrone in the very end, I know personally, I can’t wait to get into a bit of a dogfight of a game and see where we’re really at.

“It’ll be a lot quicker game. The standard of camogie will have jumped a lot, the ball will be moving faster, there won’t be as much rucks and it won’t be slowed down as much so we just need to get used to that.

“But I’m looking forward to our backs being put against the wall to see what way we respond. If we’re trailing a game, to see how we respond to that. Nip and tuck to see what kind of a backbone we really have, really put us to the test and just know where we’re at.”

That’s sure to happen tomorrow in Athleague, Roscommon, with Cavan undergoing a stern test for potentially the first time in 2020. “I know Nancy Murray was a goal but we nearly succeeded too easily in that,” Crosserlough star Galligan adds, the test ahead much more challenging than any they’ve had to date.

niamh-reilly-and-ciara-finnegan-celebrate-after-the-game Niamh Reilly and Ciara Finnegan celebrate after last weekend's win. Source: ©INPHO

Last weekend’s victory came as their third in total over the Red Hand this hand, having navigated their Division 4 league campaign successfully before the Covid-19 layoff.

While Storm Ciara halted their original comeback, Cavan came in under the radar and impressed on all accounts before the pandemic pressed pause on their new chapter. All in all, the return has been a huge success with a big marker laid down — and this is only the start.

“We had a great belief in ourselves as camogie players,” Galligan continues, “and we could see the potential that was at club level in Cavan between Crosserlough, Denn and then years before that, Lacken and Castletara, and seeing how they have progressed on the club scene in Ulster.

“We have brilliant camogie players in Cavan, but it was just a matter of plucking them all together and trying to get a system in place for us to play together. We’re slowly but surely building on that.”

As she said in an interview with The42 earlier this year, the standard of camogie players in Cavan across nine clubs was too high not to be competing at national level. She’s delighted to see the pathway there now for youngsters to follow, and long may it continue.

Galligan is well versed to discuss just how important it is, having been on numerous Cavan football teams through the years, involved when the county annexed the All-Ireland intermediate crown in 2013.

“It’s massive to have the outlet, to have people having a goal,” she says on the addition of a county camogie outfit.

“You start off at underage and you want to play with your club, then you want to reach the club’s senior team and compete. Then the automatic next step is to see am I good enough to make the county team or panel, and see can I push on after a few years to get a Cavan jersey and be on the starting county team.

“It’s all a process of having a goal and another goal and another goal for yourself, and being competitive. You’re competitive in your life in general, in your career, and then you’re competitive in your sport as well.

“For younger girls, it’s nice to know that they have an opportunity because they have it at football level in Cavan, so it’s nice to have the younger girls coming out, playing camogie and knowing that they have an opportunity to represent their county as well.

“It’s only right, it’s only equal. Men can play for their county in hurling and football and if women can play ladies football, they can surely play with camogie as well.”

erinn-galligan Galligan in action for Crosserlough. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

“Hopefully now that the processors are in place now for Cavan camogie,” she adds, “that will stem on now for a few years and we kind of keep the ship afloat at the county board and management and all goes ahead. I would think now that the whole thing will stem on.

“Even winning the Nancy Murray, it’s so important to even get that bit of silverware. It just highlights to people that camogie is strong in Cavan, to commit and do what you can because you will get that opportunity to get silverware.”

With Westmeath native Jimmy Greville — who was involved with 2019 All-Ireland intermediate champions Westmeath under his brother, Johnny, having previously managed Galligan’s successful club outfit — at the helm, the future certainly looks bright.

And the Crosserlough native has no shortage of praise for the ‘brilliant’ Greville and his management team.

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“They have created a really sense of team spirit, a real belief in what we’re about,” Galligan explains. “They give us 100% backing. No player in there is playing without confidence, they honestly instil such a belief in our capabilities and the abilities that we have.

“They just say that if we work hard, then the results will come, which I really do love and appreciate about them. They’re very, very focused on us working hard collectively as a team, and the results show then, which has been working so far.

“The lads are really nice, they’re really approachable, there is a really great buzz between the players, and the management; a real will to win, to get better and play in the Cavan jersey.”

That will to win and want to succeed comes from the top down, and it’s something that definitely doesn’t go unnoticed.

The hard work that happens behind the scenes is there for all to see, both at management level, and from the county board too, which Galligan is eternally grateful for.

“Jimmy would be there an hour before training,” she adds, “I’d be just leaving work and I’d have to go home, get something to eat, get changed, get back into Breffni, and Jimmy would be there laying out cones already.

jimmy-greville-celebrates-with-niamh-reilly-after-the-game Cavan boss Greville. Source: ©INPHO

“He’s so organised and he’s real into it, and that ricochets into the team as well if you see what the management is putting into it. Then you have girls arriving up taking frees and sidelines as well.

“The Cavan county board have been great too, they’ve provided us with everything. There wouldn’t be much in Cavan camogie but whatever there is there, they give it to us to make it as easy as possible for us to give what we can to camogie in the county.

“It’s all going well. I’m sure there will be blips along the way, but so far this year, it can’t be faulted for everyone’s effort.”

And everyone involved is absolutely loving it, Galligan notes, even through these difficult times. The enjoyment that games have been giving is fantastic, with camogie giving everyone something to do and strive for, and a much-needed routine.

“I’ve never appreciated sport as much in my life as I have done the last few weeks, just getting out and about. It just gives you a real purpose and an outlet away from your day job as well. We’re blessed to be have it and be able to do it.”

Galligan has always been grateful for the little things, having balanced camogie and football through much of her sporting career.

She’s thoroughly enjoying focusing on one at inter-county level this year, and probably appreciating inter-county duty even more given the extra recovery time, “biting at the bit” for each and every training session and game rather than just going through the motions or following a schedule.

“Now, don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t give up one or the other,” she grins. “I love the football and the camogie, but when you do get that extra break in between, it does add to your bite to get to training.”

the-cavan-team Galligan was on Cavan's 2013 All-Ireland intermediate winning ladies football panel. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

2020 has been a stellar year for Galligan on an individual level, winning senior county titles in both codes, lining out for her native Crosserlough in camogie and neighbouring Lacken in football.

Interestingly in the big ball decider, Lacken dethroned Crosserlough so it was a bittersweet occasion — and one she won’t forget any time soon. “A funny one,” she laughs, adding that she’s Crosserlough ladies footballers’ number one supporter when Lacken aren’t playing, with best friends in both set-ups and no begrudgery on show.

But that’s sport, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I’ve been very lucky this year to be fair,” she concludes, “but I’m surrounded by unbelievable talent and surrounded by unbelievable people on management and committees both in Lacken and Crosserlough, and now in Cavan.

“Success doesn’t come out of nowhere, it comes from people putting in effort and time with us over the years. They don’t go seen but it’s testament to them, all the trophies and medals that I’ve won over the summer and I wouldn’t have got anywhere without them.”

Here’s to many more trophies and medals, as Cavan’s camogie journey continues.

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Emma Duffy

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