WHEN Clann Eireann won the Ulster minor title in 2015, Cait Towe was a fresh-faced 15-year-old.
Fast-forward eight years, she has become a rock in the heart of her team’s defense, going about everything quietly, getting on with her role of keeping opponents at bay and joining her team’s attack from wing-back.
She names team-mate and friend Clodagh McCambridge, who herself has become one of the best defenders in the country, as her role model and it’s no wonder then that she has evolved into the calibre of player that sees her with four county minor titles, that minor provincial championship, five county senior medals and, of course, the most recent addition to her collection – an Ulster senior winners’ medal.
Let’s also remember that she has become a fixture in the Armagh defense, starting every senior inter-county match in the season past for the Orchard county.
McCambridge is only three years older than Towe but having played alongside her from an early age, even in that 2015 Ulster minor club final, she epitomises all that Towe wanted to be in a gaelic footballer.
“Clodagh is someone I have always admired and she has definitely shaped me as a player. To me there’s no-one better and I’m always trying to take note of things I’d like to bring into my own game,” said Towe.
“She’s a complete professional in the way she carries herself on and off the pitch – such a role model for any young player and I am so lucky to play alongside her.“
Towe, Clodagh and Meabh McCambridge, Niamh and Dearbhla Coleman, Aoibhinn Henderson, Niamh Murray and Megan McCann were all on that 2015 winning minor team and as teenagers back then, playing for and winning with the seniors was all they wanted to do.
Especially so with other role models – Mags Carvill (McAlinden), Catherine Lawless (McAlinden), Grainne Carville [McAlinden], Maebh Morarity and Laura McGibbon [Brown] – “heroes” as Towe calls them.
She was able to celebrate a first Ulster senior club championship title with those 'heroes' and team-mates after the recent provincial final victory over Bredagh.
“It’s really special to add a senior Ulster title to the minor one with those girls. We’re great friends and have created some amazing memories on and off the pitch. Thankfully we’ve stuck together over the years and continue to have the same desire to play for Clann Eireann.
“We probably wouldn’t be the players we are today had we not had our heroes in the form of Mags, Catherine, Maebh, Laura and Grainne growing up.
They sparked something in all of us and to be still playing and learning alongside them today is incredible. They have given so much to Clann Eireann ladies and I’m so happy to have created this bit of history with them,” she said.
It's that bond that the team has, that Towe says has helped them break through in Ulster this year, a goal that was set for them by manager Gregory McGonigle at the start of the year.
Now they enter more new territory on Sunday (Clann Eireann, 1.30pm) when they face Waterford and Munster champions Ballymacarbry, who are steeped in All-Ireland history.
“Our goal at the start of the year was an Ulster title and we never thought about anything past that until we achieved it.
“We are really looking forward to the challenge on Sunday. It’s great to have the opportunity to go up against one of the best teams in the country on our home pitch. “We’re the only team left that hasn’t reached this stage of the competition before so we’re definitely stepping into the unknown. Ballymacarbry have a rich history in this competition and are going to be at a level unlike anything we have faced this year, so we are expecting an absolute battle.
“At this stage it’s about throwing everything at it, we’ll do just that and see where it takes us.”