Report by: Kenneth Conlon
Photo: Tom Russell, Anois Photography
With the easing of public health restrictions, the country’s players have once again returned to playing sport, including ladies’ football. Gaelic View recently caught up with UL and Cork goalkeeper Caoimhe Moore to find out more about the college championship season being cut short, life under lockdown, and the return to sport.
For the UL Ladies Football team, the announcement on March 12th that colleges were to close meant that the O’Connor Cup, due to take place the following day was no longer going ahead – a source of great upset for Caoimhe and others, for whom that weekend would have been the last time they represented UL following many days and nights of preparing for the weekend, before finishing their studies and graduating. In Cork, the Division 1 League was also cancelled, halting progress made in building a strong panel for the year ahead. Although it felt like all the training was for nothing, for Caoimhe it was a wake-up call that health and wellbeing should always be the number one priority.
As lockdown put an end to training sessions, Caoimhe missed her fellow players the most, whom for her are not just teammates but some of her closest friends. To go from spending most of her week with the girls at the pitch, or in the gym, travelling to training or even going for a cup of coffee during the week, to not spending time with them at all was very strange. Before restrictions were imposed, Caoimhe had a busy schedule between county and college football as well as studying in college. While lockdown provided more time off, the Criminal Justice student started to miss the routine and intense training after a few weeks: “Training on my own sometimes was very hard to get motivated for and at times was difficult to sustain as everywhere you looked were signs that there was going to be no sport this year. Thankfully I kept in contact with a lot of the girls and zoom calls kept us on track, pushing each other on even if it was through a screen!”
Despite the challenge this created, the Final Year UL student kept as active as possible during lockdown, and while not focusing on her studies, spent her time walking to keep herself sane, while the strength and conditioning coaches in UL and Cork had given players a plan to continue training sessions to take their minds off work, while getting them through the long days of lockdown. Caoimhe also took up baking and cooking which proved very relaxing, and started listening to podcasts while walking, something which she continues to do, and recommends to others. While lockdown afforded the goalkeeper some time off, she kept her focus on ladies’ football; engaging with Cork’s sport psychologist Barry Corkery over zoom calls, while also taking time for kicking practice with her sister. With a desire to be fresh and injury-free for when training resumed, Caoimhe decided to stick to the basic skills and keep fit rather than focusing on specific aspects of her game. Fitness is important to her; Caoimhe notes how fitness makes her reactions better, and how it helps her move faster across the goals, making her more active and alert. Despite not being keen on running, she feels that by partaking in running with all the outfield players, you gain respect from your teammates.
The first night back proved to be a nervous occasion for Caoimhe, as it was such a long time since being in a team environment where standards are very high, and everyone is very driven. However, it was also a positive experience to return to normal, as well as allowing her to appreciate the sport more and the teammates alike.
Caoimhe Moore has had numerous successes in her career, winning the county Senior A Championship with Mourneabbey Senior Ladies in 2014 aged 16. Another standout moment for the player is winning the O’Connor cup in 2018 after narrowly losing out the year before.
For the weeks ahead, the focus is club championships, with county training to resume after that. The prospect of playing an All-Ireland in December in front of a much smaller crowd hasn’t changed Caoimhe’s perspective towards the game, however. Although playing in front of a bigger crowd makes it more enjoyable, makes you more determined, but for her, all the players are there for one another, and a chance at an All-Ireland is extremely special and an occasion that you look forward to with excitement regardless.
When asked who or what was the biggest influence on her playing career, she cites a number of people: “My family have been with me every single step of the way and I am extremely thankful for everything they have done for me. Ciara O’Sullivan from Mourneabbey was and is still one of my biggest influences to date. Having watched and played with Ciara for many years, and having seen what she has overcome through injuries would make you push yourself that bit harder. Orla Finn has also been extremely influential in the last few years; she trains like she plays and would always encourage me. Shane Ronayne as a manager gave me a chance of playing Senior Club football at 16 and I have learned a lot from being managed by him with both Cork and Mourneabbey.”
Caoimhe Moore came to love the game when she was young, aged 10 or 11 for when she felt she became “obsessed” with ladies’ football: “I live very close to my home pitch and if I could hear a ball being kicked, I was down there watching or kicking the ball back to whoever was there. As you become older you realise how much the game is part of your life and all the good days out and friends you’ve made from it.”
Despite the uncertainty that has surrounded the sporting calendar this year, one thing is clear: the future is bright for the Cork player who graduates from the University of Limerick this August. It won’t be the last we will see from her.