GAA Football

Carey sees bigger picture of competing at higher level with Antrim

Cathy Carey the only Antrim player to be part of all their All-Ireland junior finals

TG4 All-Ireland Junior Championship

CATHY CAREY has given almost two decades of service to Antrim and on Sunday she will make her fourth All-Ireland final appearance, the only Saffron player to be part of all their junior finals.

She has two winners’ medals to her name from 2009 and 2012. 2016 was not to be her or Antrim’s day as they lost to Longford, but she hopes 2021 will be.

It’s not the lure of winning an All-Ireland title – she knows what that is like, but she also knows how important that feeling will be to her team-mates who have not sampled that taste of All-Ireland success. For Carey, it’s the attraction of playing football at a higher level at intermediate.

She wants that but she also wants to see Antrim get out of Division Four and up into Three but that’s a story for another day – and maybe next season.

“I think I’ll keep going yet, for as long as I can. Sometimes when you weigh up the sacrifices you make you do ask yourself is it worth it but then you remember the good times like getting to Croke Park and winning All-Irelands and Ulster titles and that kind of refreshes you and gets you out of the negative thinking,” said said the 31-year-old.

“I wouldn’t play if I didn’t want to and I always say to myself you are a long time not playing football so play it while you still can. For a lot of the girls this is their biggest game, wanting to win an All-Ireland medal.

“For me it’s the bigger picture of wanting to play and compete at intermediate level, to get out of Division Four and put myself against the Division Three teams. Meath are living the dream and they have shown that any county can and that will keep driving me on.”

Wicklow stand in Antrim’s way of a return to the intermediate level. They are the favourites for this year’s championship. They are unbeaten so far having come through the group qualifying stages with four wins from four, including one over Antrim, but having said that, Carey feels Antrim have every chance as much as Wicklow as coming away victorious.

“There is very little between all five teams junior. Wicklow are the favourites and they have been from the start but at the same time anything can happen on the day. There has been no dominant team whitewashing other teams and you don’t necessarily know what way the opposition are going to set up,” she said.

As a personal trainer and operations manager at Ampersand Fitness in Toome, Carey, who plays for Moneyglass, has no excuse when it comes to fitness and looking after herself and admits her job, coupled with lockdown training with her teenage nephew, has probably helped her in playing some of her best football yet.

“Working in the personal training environment you are surrounded by people who are in a good mindset and that does have a positive impact on your own and you look after yourself as well,” she said.

“I have been very lucky not picking up any serious injuries over the past few years and that has to do with the gym work and it’s important girls realise that you going to the gym doesn’t mean you are going to get bulky or big but it can help prevent injuries.”

Despite this being her fourth All-Ireland football final – she also lined out for Antrim camogs in the 2011 All-Ireland intermediate final – she still enjoys the build-up to match day and well-wishers are plentiful. Nerves, at her age she admits, although not a thing of the past, are well controlled at this stage and her focus in on the first few minutes of a game and settling in.

“I enjoy the lead-up to games like this, everyone is wishing you well. I don’t really get nervous, I have learned to control that and I suppose that’s the experience from down through the years.

“We need to have leaders all over the pitch and remain composed. It’s a big day and a big pitch and the first five minutes will be crucial and hopefully once we get ourselves settled at the end of the day it’s a game of football with two posts and either end and played on a green pitch.”

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