Kerry Juniors' consecutive finals show investment starting to pay off
Any week in Kerry is a football week but when the Sam Maguire Cup is up for grabs, that applies to every second. Hurling is confined to a few in the north and camogie, fewer still.
Laura Collins' late blooming is reflective of that, but also to the positive trend of growth. And now, as the Kingdom prepare for another appearance at Croke Park this Sunday, this time in the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Premier Junior Camogie Championship final against Limerick, the Lixnaw native is representative of a hope for a healthier future.
There is only one senior club in Kerry. There has been a benefit of sorts in that, with a band of sisters annexing National League Division 4 and 3 titles, and reaching All-Ireland Junior A and Premier Junior Finals at county level, while also appearing in an All-Ireland Junior decider with Clanmaurice.
But the lack of competition and depth is a hindrance to progress. So the county board has been proactive in building on recent achievements.
"I think there are six underage clubs now," relates Collins. "We have got two new underage clubs this year. They are starting to build and hopefully they will keep building."
Now 28, Collins still feels like she is playing catch-up in terms of the skills, having missed out on almost her entire teenage years.
"I played underage with the boys up to U-12 because there was no camogie club and then there was nothing until I was 19/20. I did a little bit in college in UL while I was there because I wanted to play," she explains. "We just started the club then in Kerry. It has been brilliant playing ever since."
On Sunday, she will be attempting to play her part as Kerry pursue a historic All-Ireland at Headquarters.
Playing in Division 2 of the league this year was tremendous preparation, as is the experience of playing in last year's final, although Dublin left them bereft.
"That absolute disappointment will help us to drive on. We really want it this year. Just that experience coming out under that tunnel and hearing that roar. Having that experience alone will help us."