Cahir's dual stars eager to atone for football final pain
Published 05/03/2016 | 02:30
Mary Howard can remember exactly who scored the first ever point for Cahir's camogie team.
It is 14 years ago, soon after herself and Marie Casey stuck their necks out and founded a juvenile camogie club in South Tipp's football heartland.
"We started from scratch, trained them for a year and then entered them in competition the following season," Howard recalls.
"We started out in U-12C and didn't get a single score in our first five or six games. When Leanne Barrett scored our first point against Kilsheelin we all went mad on the sideline!
"How do I remember? Because she was the only one who could hit the ball out of her hand at the time!" she chuckles.
"When we started, our goalie couldn't even hit it from her hand.
"Myself and Marie used to come out in a sweat every time she'd have a puck-out."
Tomorrow the measure of their dreams line out in Croke Park, taking on Eyrecourt (Galway) in the AIB All-Ireland intermediate club final (1.30).
Cahir's starting line-up includes Mary's daughter Roisin and two of Marie's (Aoife and Caral), but this was never just about their own.
For two great sporting pioneers and volunteers it was always about the game and, despite tomorrow's achievement, success never came easily.
Cahir may have won the Division One title at Feile (national U-14 championship) in 2011 but it was a year later before they finally won Tipperary's Junior B title.
"At the start the adult teams wouldn't have been winning much and Mary and Marie just kept it going," team captain Aisling McCarthy explains.
"Marie had to go in goals and Mary had to go up in the forwards one time just to field a team."
They also had a complication: the town's football talent.
The local ladies' football club is extremely successful and that has culminated in a crazy past year for most of tomorrow's finalists.
Seventeen of the camogie squad were also involved when Cahir's ladies' football team reached the All-Ireland intermediate club final in Parnell Park last December.
"It was mad," McCarthy recalls. "One Sunday we had a Munster camogie semi-final. The next week was an All-Ireland football semi-final, then the Munster camogie final and then the All-Ireland football final.
"I think it all maybe caught up with us," she reflects on losing the intermediate club football final to Milltown of Westmeath.
"It was utter devastation in the dressing-room afterwards but we knew we still had the camogie," she says.
"It was our last match before Christmas, we took a week or two's break and then got back to it.
"Maybe it will help us a bit because they say you have to lose one to win one but, at the same time, we want to win enough tomorrow that we don't have to keep reverting back to the football loss."
Cahir have taken out all the big guns to get here.
They beat the Cork champions (Brian Dillons) in Munster's last four, took the huge scalp of Lismore (2014 All-Ireland champions and last year's runners-up) in the Munster final and Kilkenny's Tullaroan in the semis.
It is 31 years ago since Mary Howard, a Galway woman from near Loughrea, won a senior All-Ireland club medal herself with Dublin club Crumlin.
She played competitively until she was 37 and her passion remains infectious as she analyses the strength of Cahir's defence and describes young midfield star Aishling Moloney as "a joy to watch".
Howard won the Tipperary award at camogie's 'Volunteers of the Year' ceremony in Croke Park only two weeks ago.
On Mothers' Day it seems utterly fitting that herself and Marie Casey - the two women who gave birth to Cahir camogie in 2001 and have 'mammied' all of its fledglings since - are at the helm on the club's greatest day.