Hurling and camogie

Katie (McAleese) Carey: My special camogie memories

Down captain Lisa McCrickard blocks down Antrim's Katie McAleese during Saturday's Gala All Ireland Junior Camogie semi-final at Casement Park. Pic by John McIlwaine...
Séamas McAleenan

KATIE McAleese, now Katie Carey, is one of the longest serving players on the current Antrim camogie panel.

Katie has enjoyed plenty of success throughout her career: at school and through the age groups with Antrim winning Ulster titles at each level and then the All-Ireland minor B title in 2007, and has been a key figure in the Saffron county challenge for senior honours.

We asked Katie to pick out a couple of special memories from her club and county playing career...

2007 Ulster League group game: Portglenone Geraldine’s 5-3 Rossa 1-10.

“Why have I picked a run of the mill club game as a stand out moment? Maybe that is an indication that my playing career hasn’t been as successful as I had hoped it might be. But sometimes there doesn’t have to be a cup at the end of a game for it to be memorable.

“In 2007 I would still have been under 16 and just breaking into the senior club team.

“There were a few girls around my age who would have been very good, maybe not enough of us to win underage trophies, but I think you could say that there was an expectation for us coming through.

“There would have been a solid enough senior squad around that time as well with a good few of them quite experienced. They were looking to us youngsters to fill the gaps and add a bit of drive.

“This particular night Louise, my cousin, and I were midfield. We were both in the same GCSE class in St Louis Ballymena. So we were quite young to be in a senior club midfield together.”

The Ulster club league was set up in the mid 1990s to provide extra competitive games for the top clubs in the province.

“Some clubs were possibly well ahead of the pack in their own county and would get a good challenge against the top teams in other counties.

“Looking back it was a great competition. You would have had an Antrim league game on a Tuesday evening and then an Ulster league match maybe in Portaferry or Ballycran or Keady on the Wednesday evening.

“Rossa were at their peak at the time and had won the title for four years in a row. They were up in Portglenone on a dark, wet evening.

“Growing up, Jane Adams was my hero. I loved watching her and this was the first time I was on the same pitch as her.

“Rossa had other young players coming through too around my own age, Natalie McGuinness, the McCauls and the Quinns.

“But Jane was probably one of the best forwards in Ireland at the time.

“Anyway we got a couple of goals in the first half. There wasn’t too much between us all the way through, but we stayed just ahead.

“Our defence was outstanding in the second half. They probably put a lot of focus on Jane and I seem to remember that she scored a lot of frees that evening.

“One moment stands out though. Jane was taking a lot of hits from our defenders, some fair, some foul, but she wasn’t retaliating.

“Then the referee blew her up for a foul when I felt it wasn’t one at all.

“If it had been me, I would have blown up and argued with the referee.

“That wasn’t how Jane dealt with it. There was no arguing.

“She handed me the sliotar for the free and moved into position.

“It showed sportsmanship and maturity and it was a moment that left a lasting impression on me.

“We held on to beat Rossa that night. I think I scored a soft goal from a 45 metre free near the end. It was our first win over them in years but they went on and won the All-Ireland title later that year.

“The other thing that stands out about that night is my father Liam who died a couple of years ago.

“ Daddy had been asked to take Portglenone seniors that year with Paul McKee.

“He didn’t know a lot about camogie but both of them trained us hard pre-season and we were in good shape for that game.

“Now that year there were plenty of arguements between daddy and me and silent journeys home from games.

“We were getting hammered in the championship by Loughgiel in Rasharkin later that summer and Paul suggested making some changes.

“Daddy told him it would make no difference, it was like moving the deckchairs on the Titanic!

“Well that night against Rossa the Titanic was just leaving Cobh.

“The future seemed great. It was the start of the season, the start of my senior career. We had taken a big scalp.

“The McAleeses, father and daughter, were smiling and sharing a dream.”

2010 All-Ireland Junior final: Antrim (1-9) 2-10 Waterford (1-9) 0-12

“I am maybe cheating here in that I have picked two games in one, the drawn final in Croke Park and the replay in Ashbourne a fortnight later.

“By this stage I had gone from playing against Jane Adams to playing alongside her in the Antrim forward line and I was a regular right there through to the final.

“Then, as I saw it, I was dropped for the final in Croke Park. In hindsight I can see the management’s logic.

“They wanted to use me as an impact sub, coming on with my pace to give Antrim a lift. But that was not how I saw it and I was annoyed.

“I remember Aileen Martin did her cruciate in the first half and I was thinking that they will move someone back into defence to cover and bring me on.

“That is how wrapped up I was in myself.

“Anyway I came on with about ten minutes left and scored a couple of points. Jane tapped over a couple of frees near the end to get the draw, 1-9 each.

“Everyone goes into a final in Croke Park expecting to either win or lose. A draw feels such an anti-climax. You don’t know what to do really when the referee blows for a draw.

“Anyway the replay was fixed for Ashbourne a couple of weeks later and I would have to say that we learned more from the draw than Waterford did.

“Micky McCullagh and Ronan McWilliams were the managers and they set us up well in the replay. We knew for both games that Patricia Jackman was the danger in the Waterford attack. In the second game we focussed a lot on stopping the supply coming into her and that worked a treat.

“I started the replay instead of Laura Connolly, but didn’t get any scores. Jane didn’t score much either. But Antrim worked well as a team and I can never remember us being in a situation that we could have lost the game.

“Laura came on as a sub and scored a goal. Michaela Convery got the other goal and Racquel McCarry hit a few points. It was great watching Jane (Adams) lift the Cup at the end.

“You want to win these big games in Croke Park because it is Croke Park. In Ashbourne that day, I remember knowing exactly where the Portglenone supporters were seated and it is a great feeling to hear a familiar vocie shouting encouragement.

“In Croke Park you just lose all that closeness.

“We reached the Intermediate final in Croke Park the following year and lost to Wexford and I suppose you could say we have been in a kind of no man’s land since.

“Then you look at Waterford. They bounced back to beat Down in 2011, went on to win the Intermediate crown a couple of years later and are now closing the gap on the top two or three at senior level at the moment.

“They are doing the things that I dreamt would happen to us after winning in 2010.”

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Hurling and camogie