‘An amazing feeling’

‘An amazing feeling’

9 December 2020

CASTLEWELLAN star Caitriona Caldwell has said the emptiness of the Kingspan Breffni Park stadium will be one of her abiding memories when she looks back on a weekend when she and her Down camog team-mates were crowned All-Ireland champions.

Caldwell was part of a Down defence which helped to keep in check an Antrim attacking line as the Mourne girls clinched the title on Saturday.

“When the final whistle went and we knew we were champions, just the adrenaline, the buzz and sense of achievement was amazing,” recalled Caitriona.

“It was strange, there we were in the stadium in Cavan, a big stadium, but an empty one with this achievement of what we had just done. It was a bit surreal,no doubt.”

Down went into the game with the pain of a one-point semi-final defeat to Westmeath last term still very much in their minds.

That was a heart-breaking reversal for the Mourne girls, but one that they were able to use to fuel their bid for glory this time around.

Caitriona said that despite the stadium being bereft of fans the players knew there were so many cheering them on from afar.

“The early goal at the start of the game really helped to settle us down,” she said. “In those stages I was thinking of my mummy and the nerves she would be feeling watching us. But as a team, we needed to get switched on early, get those nervy jitters out of our system quickly, because we knew the challenge that Antrim would pose to us.

“Everything went great from early on in the game for us. The communication was good, the flow of the moves worked, and on the day thankfully it all clicked.”

She also told of how in the days leading up to the final the players spoken about the heartbreak of having come so close in the past. That was something that they knew they could not allow to happen again.

“We did talk about the defeats and the funny thing is, in a way those defeats can actually work to spur you on a bit more,” she revealed.

“It played a big part for us psychologically for last weekend, especially for the older players on our panel. The older you get, you don’t know how much more often the chances will come around I suppose. For girls like Catherine McGourty and Fionnuala Carr, they have been there for such a long time, since I was a wee girl really.

“The satisfaction that they must feel, having been there for that length of time, is probably a different type of satisfaction to what the younger players must be experiencing now in the wake of what we have done.

“All of this has been a long time coming, but the progress of Down camogie for a while has been brilliant. The numbers participating are going up all the time, there is a great junior structure. 

“Everyone who was in our team at the weekend, has bettered themselves as players and gone from strength to strength. The bond that has developed with us as team mates has been unbelievable.”

All of the Down camogie camp are also acutely aware of the wider positive impact their success has had on people within their own communities. With many people feeling the implications of the restrictions placed on life by coronavirus, it has been a dark time for many. Caitriona said she and her fellow All-Ireland winners feel very lucky.

“We have been in a fortunate position. When I think back I suppose only a matter of weeks, none of us were really sure if we would get much, if any, camogie action for the remainder of the year. 

“To go from that, to being All-Ireland champions, it really is just difficult to put it into words what that means.

“Castlewellan has been brilliant in supporting us all the way too. I have had so many messages, both wishing me luck before the final and congratulations since. It shows how much our success has meant to the community.

She added: “This year, of all years, we were lucky the championship even went ahead. To go from that position, to be sitting here now talking to people as an All-Ireland champion, well it just doesn’t get much better to be honest with you.”