It has been a memorable 12 months for the new Clare ladies football captain Ellie O’Gorman.
Fresh from leading Kilmihil to a first ever Clare senior crown, she was then chosen to take over the captaincy role from Laurie Ryan for the county team.
That came quick on the heels of changes in a professional sense too as she found herself moving closer to home for work having spent three years in Dublin as a maths teacher. She is now based in Galway and travels with her now vice-captain Grainne Nolan to training with the journey much less arduous than a round trip to the capital with just her thoughts for company.
Maths teaching is something she is passionate about, and credits her secondary school teacher and fellow Kilmihil native Bernie Burke with giving her that love for the subject. Football is clearly a passion too and she admits being asked to take over as captain for the county team was a huge moment for her.
“I was honoured to be asked by James to take on the role. It is about a month now since he asked me and to be honest it did come as a bit of a shock at the time but I was only too delighted to accept it. There is a great bunch of girls there and I am only of many that could have gotten that role so I am lucky that it came my way. I had that call up from the club this year too and that is also a real honour. I don’t think this opportunity might have come my way only for Kilmihil and the way we stepped up this year. The mood is great in the squad at the moment. As you have every year, some have stepped away from the panel and we have new faces in too. Overall, there is loads of competition for places and we have had a good few challenge games now where players have been picked in different positions so everyone knows there are places up for grabs. It creates a very healthy and professional environment and there is just a great atmosphere with everyone. Our age profile is not really that old but at the same time a lot of the girls have a good deal of experience. A lot of them would have played in Croke Park and they bring great experience to it, not just in a county sense but also at colleges and club level so that really adds to it” she said.
The new season gets underway this Sunday when Clare host Armagh in the opening round of the National Ladies football league Division Two. Clare will be hoping to build on last year where they narrowly failed to make the semi-finals of the league before bowing out of the championship at the quarter-final stage against eventual winners Tipperary. O’Gorman feels that the fact they were so close to toppling the Premier last year shows they are comfortable in competing with the top teams.
She said: “We have had some great battles with Tipperary down through the years and we really put it up to them last year. I think we were the team that came closest to them during the championship. There were only a few points in it and if one or two little things had gone our way, there may well have been a different result. That is where we want to be in competing with the likes of Tipperary and pushing ourselves on to that next level. There are some brilliant teams for us to take on in Division Two with five senior teams there for us to play so hopefully that will raise the standards within our own camp and push us on that bit more for the championship. Our goal is always to push for the knockout stages of the league and give ourselves more time to get a game-plan going so we can drive everyone on for more consistency across our performances. We have seen in some challenge games that we are putting together some brilliant passages of football so we just need to try and make that a more consistent thing so hopefully we will have an opportunity during the league to do that so people will know exactly what their roles are”.
With the feeling of being crowned county champions still very much fresh in her mind, the captain is hopeful that it will continue during this year’s intercounty campaign.
“Someone was asking me if coming into the county squad off the back of the Kilmihil victory makes a difference and I think that it does. We have been knocking on the door for the last three or four years and when you get that reward for the hard work you put in, it does tend to push you on that extra little bit. It gives that sense of satisfaction from getting something out of it because you hear people saying that we put an awful lot into it and wondering if it is worth missing nights out and holidays but wins like that really prove that it is worth it. We want to perform now for Clare Ladies football and push on to that next step. We are maybe underachieving as a panel over the last few years so hopefully this will be the year that we can drive it on and make it past that quarter-final stage at the very least” she predicted.
Doonbeg has been a happy hunting ground for Clare over the last few years, and O’Gorman wants to use that home advantage on Sunday to get the year off to the perfect start with a large local support to help them over the line.
“We have made Doonbeg our home over the last few years and it is somewhere we are very comfortable playing. Our first game is at home but then we have two long trips ahead of us to take on Ulster opposition so it is really important that we get off to a good start and take some of that pressure off. We would be hoping for a good home support to turn out for us and we want to put on a good show of football for them. A good support in these home games can often make a real difference so hopefully we will have that” she concluded.