Wednesday 21 February 2018

Getting closer to fulfilling a dream

For most of her life, Dublin's goalkeeper has been focused on winning an All-Ireland

Ciara Trant: ‘We are a core group of girls who have been through a lot together so it is easy to go again.’ Photo: Steve Humphreys
Ciara Trant: ‘We are a core group of girls who have been through a lot together so it is easy to go again.’ Photo: Steve Humphreys
Marie Crowe

Marie Crowe

Football defines Ciara Trant and the Dublin goalkeeper is more than okay with that. In fact, she wouldn't have it any other way. Lining out for Dublin is all she's ever wanted and she's made plenty of sacrifices along the way to achieve it.

Incidentally, she wasn't always a goalkeeper. For most of her underage career Trant was on the fringes of the Dublin starting team, desperate for a chance to break into the first 15.

Right up to minor level she was an outfield player, mostly full-back or midfield. Indeed her hero growing up was Denise Masterson who she now teaches with in Finglas. She aspired to play like Masterson but, as it turns out, fate had a different path for Trant. Ahead of an All-Ireland minor semi-final, Dublin's two goalkeepers were on holidays so there was a role that needed filling. Trant was asked would she step in for a challenge match and she jumped at the chance.

"The managers asked me would I go in goal and I said 'yes' without hesitation," she explains. "I hadn't been getting my game outfield so I was delighted to get the opportunity to play an actual match, not just stand on the sideline.

"My first competitive match was the All-Ireland semi-final and then the All-Ireland final. We won both so it was great, but it was scary at first and I was nervous. When my name was called out in the dressing room I thought, 'Okay, they won't expect much,' so that helped."

So that was it, Trant was a goalkeeper and she had taken one step closer to realising her dreams of lining out for Dublin in an All-Ireland final, but there were still some choices to be made and hurdles to overcome before she got there.

Ciara Trant. Photo: Sportsfile
Ciara Trant. Photo: Sportsfile

In 2014, she was all set to go to America with her friends on a J1 for the summer. Her aunt had offered to put them up when they arrived so even though she had a chance to be with the Dublin seniors, she felt tied to travelling with her friends.

She went to Cape Cod as scheduled but Trant had a plan. She waited 11 days until her friends found jobs and could move out of her aunt's house and then she flew straight home. Landing in Dublin on a Tuesday morning, she went to training that same evening. At that time Hannah Tyrrell was the Dublin senior goalkeeper but she had opted to focus on rugby so there was a vacancy to provide cover.

Cliodhna O'Connor had returned to the squad to fill the void for the short term and Trant slotted in as her deputy when she got back. However, two weeks after returning she broke her arm, ending her hopes of getting into the team that season. But she stayed around the panel learning and doing what training she could.

Trant is always looking for opportunities to learn and develop as an athlete. She feels lucky to be where she is and missing out on big events and holidays with friends are not sacrifices because she is exactly where she wants to be.

That attitude goes for everything in her life including her 21st birthday two years ago. Her mother insisted on a party, but the occasion fell the night before she was due to make her senior football debut against Monaghan. So at 9.30pm she blew out the candles and slipped off to bed, leaving her friends and family to celebrate the milestone in her absence.

Trant has worked hard to keep her grip on the goalkeeper's jersey but she knows that there are plenty who want to take it from her.

This year, new manager Mick Bohan rotated the 'keepers in the squad during the league, driving Trant to work even harder. So strong is the competition in the squad that the St Brigid's player feels more nerves ahead of an in-house game than she does facing the top teams in the country.

"It's nice to know your direct competition, it keeps you on your toes. I had a few bad performances in the league but Mick gave everyone equal opportunities to prove themselves. When things didn't go well I knew that I had another go so I wasn't focusing on the past.

"I have good skills and I have a good head on my shoulders. When you make a mistake it can be a goal; when other players like forwards make a mistake there are other girls around to have their backs.

"I'm very good at parking things and once it's over it's gone. I've often been asked what was going through my head when this happened or that happened and then I don't remember so I have to watch it back. I'm pretty strong mentally."

The new manager, Bohan, is very focused on skill development and getting the basics right. Trant buys into his philosophies in a big way and is enjoying the fresh perspective.

Dublin have lost the last three All-Ireland football finals, but they have shown great resilience and bounced back year after year. They are a strong and united group who have never lost sight of their goal of winning an All-Ireland, despite the setbacks they have encountered along the way.

"When you have grown up dreaming about something your whole life, it is hard when it doesn't come to pass and you get so close to achieving it. Every year we have gone back. We are resilient, we haven't given up. We are a core group of girls who have been through a lot together so it is easy to go again. You are in it with your best friends - we are doing the same thing together, you move on, even though it hurts."

Just last week, Trant's mother reminded her of her formative years, when she was most content playing in her cot with a ball. Today she will stand between the posts in Croke Park as Dublin take on Mayo . . . she's far from the cot now but very close to making her childhood dreams come true.

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