Fermanagh 'keeper Roisin Gleeson still ahead of the game

The Fermanagh ladies will get another crack at Antrim this weekend
The Fermanagh ladies will get another crack at Antrim this weekend The Fermanagh ladies will get another crack at Antrim this weekend

TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Junior Championship Final replay: Fermanagh v Antrim (tomorrow, Athletic Grounds, 5pm)

AS a goalkeeper there is only the jersey to fight for, only one position on the field for you and there could be two, maybe even three battling for that number one spot.

It’s about being patient and waiting for the opportunity to present itself and then it’s about taking it and making the most of it when you get it.

Just ask Fermanagh netminder Roisin Gleeson. The 34-year-old is Fermanagh’s most experienced player having made her debut back in 2009 and in that 13 year period, she has missed just one year, opting to take last year out.

Gleeson has experienced the highs and lows of inter-county football, which can be on a weekly basis especially at this level, but still she keeps coming back for more particularly as in all that time she has not always held the number one jersey.

The St Patrick’s Donagh player has two All-Ireland winner’s medals in her possession thanks to Fermanagh’s junior successes in 2017 and 2020, while she has a runner-up medal from an intermediate final defeat to Down in 2014.

The 2017 win was courtesy of a final replay, coincidentally against another Ulster side - Derry while two years ago it was a final victory over Wicklow in Parnell Park.

While she was between the posts for the maiden All-Ireland win, she had to step aside for a few months in 2014 because of illness - she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis - with Shauna Murphy taking over and it was also Murphy who wore the number one jersey when they claimed their second All-Ireland title two years ago with victory over Wicklow in the final at Parnell Park.

“I have been lucky enough to be involved with the county team from 2009 and opportunities definitely come and go. I was in the number one jersey for a few years and thankfully Shauna [Murphy] came in back in 2014 when I had a short illness,” said Gleeson.

“The goalkeepers are a partnership and one goalkeeper would not begrudge the other the position. We push each other on to be the best we can be and are 100 per cent behind the person who gets selected to start.”

After taking last year out, and with Murphy stepping aside having signed a contract to play soccer with Cliftonville this year, Gleeson has been reinstated as the Erne number one and has played a major role in helping Fermanagh get to this final stage of the season.

She will have experienced at first hand just how the role of the goalkeeper has evolved and she knows too the increased pressure that can be put on a goalkeeper now, especially around kick-outs.

“The game has definitely changed over the years. The goalkeeper has become a major role in the team, for communication, being an option for passes back and even being a carrier of the ball further up the pitch. The game is changing all the time so it will be good to see how it evolves over the next 10 years.”

In the drawn final with Antrim two Sundays ago, Fermanagh struggled to retain possession from their own kick-outs during stages of the first half as the Saffrons got a grip on the game. As the person responsible for taking the kick-outs, when they don’t go right, the pressure can mount quickly.

However, Gleeson’s years of experience saw her weather that storm and she has learned to accept that not everything goes your and the team’s way every time and it’s more important about how to approach the next opportunity.

“I look at the kick-outs as possession restarts and for sure they don't always go your way but not all free kicks, sideline balls or shots will go your way either,” she said.

“It's how you react that's important. There is extra pressure but I suppose nothing different than what the other keeper is feeling. If a kick-out goes wrong, we as a team will try our best to force a turn over.

Every keeper will probably say the same; you have to think of the next ball, the next possession and how you can help the team.

“I have been on the wrong side of defeats that have came from mistakes but you live and learn. Experience is a big thing and keeping calm but once a ball is gone it's gone, you can't change that possession but you can control the next one so you just have to think of the next ball and how you can help your team to regain possession and set up an attack.”