Catherine McGourty: here is one player with a serious competitive edge
MOST of the Down camogie team that were involved in last Sunday’s 2-8 to 0-10 win over Antrim in the Ulster final were collecting their second medal, having been part of the team that ended a 13-year wait by beating Derry in Páirc Esler last June.
But one player on Sunday was winning her second medal 14 years after her first.
Catherine McGourty scored two points from centre-forward in Down’s 7-8 to 1-6 win over Derry in Limavady in October 2005, but for the past couple of weekends she has been the Mourne goalie in the Ulster Championship.
“That wasn’t really the plan when I came back at the start of the year,” the Ballycran club player laughed.
“Martina (Rooney, the manager) asked me to come in to cover for Maria McNally (goalie) who was injured. But I said no, that I wanted to compete for an outfield position.
“I got some action at full-forward in the league with the Clonduff girls out and enjoyed it.
“I have to admit that I was more than a bit jealous sitting in the stand in Croke Park last year watching Down play in the final.
“I could see that there was great potential there and maybe I had something to offer for a year or two that could get the county back into senior camogie.”
When Catherine McGourty was first called into the Down senior squad, they had just won the 1998 All-Ireland Intermediate title and were playing in the senior championship.
“I was too young to get a starting jersey, but I can remember clearly that I didn’t have any nerves,'' she said.
“I had got starts in some of the challenge games. I remember playing against Kilkenny and I was buzzing after it.”
Down won their way through to the All-Ireland senior semi-final in 1999, the last Ulster team to feature at that stage, but they lost heavily to Tipperary who went on to beat Kilkenny and win their first title.
Catherine may have lost out on a Croke Park appearance that September, but Down made the Camogie Centenary Year Junior final in 2004 where they were beaten by Cork with McGourty and current captain Fionnuala Carr featuring in the forward line.
But there was more heartbreak in Headquarters in 2011 and 2012 before Down came back from a five points’ interval deficit to beat Laois and win outright in 2014.
“That was special in so many ways, coming back in the way that we did, finally getting a win in Croke Park and my sister Bríd was also on the team at corner-back,'' she added.
“A really memorable day.
“I felt that we could have pushed on to win an Intermediate at that point.
“We had a good panel of girls and good young players coming through. But it didn’t happen; some went travelling, others couldn’t commit. You would go to county training and numbers were sometimes down to single figures.”
That was the low ebb and broke a couple of managers before Martina Rooney came in as manager mid-season in 2018 and suddenly things started to fall into place.
There was life back in the Down senior set up and McGourty, a PE teacher in Our Lady’s and St Patrick’s Knock, wanted a slice of that action: “You go to training now and there is a great buzz every night. It is fun and great to be part of. Beating Derry last year also got a monkey off our back.
“They had beaten us for the best part of a decade and we proved in the Athletic Grounds a fortnight ago that it wasn’t a flash in the pan.
“I wouldn’t say that I want to do goals, but I remember Máirín McAleenan, one of Down’s best ever forwards, in her last year doing goals and helping us win a National League title.
“So I am happy to contribute in any way I can for a year or two and maybe get the county back to senior camogie where I joined it in the first place.”
There are not too many inter-county players around who started their career in the last century.
Catherine McGourty is well used to the “mummy” jibes at training, that she has played on Down teams with Dearbhla Magee’s mother, but it hasn’t put her off.
Here is one player with a serious competitive edge.