By Daire Walsh
Despite a return to inter-county action being ruled out until October at the earliest, Dublin ladies footballer Ciara McGuigan remains hopeful that a championship can be played in 2020.
Before the coronavirus outbreak brought a halt to sport across the globe, Mick Bohan’s Sky Blues were set to mount the latest defence of their All-Ireland title under a revamped format.
This year’s senior series was to consist of two groups of six teams each, ensuring a minimum of five games in advance of the knockout rounds.
It has since been confirmed by the LGFA that, if the championship is given the go-ahead in the winter months, it will not be under the structure originally intended.
“Before this pandemic, it was going to be the start of July all the way through the summer and there was going to be a lot of games for us to play. It’s something that we were really preparing for and really excited for,” McGuigan remarked.
“It’s disappointing that won’t go ahead, but we’re just hoping now that we have some sort of championship in the near future. I think we’re all just dying to play football. Hopefully if everything goes back to normal soon we’ll have a championship near the end of the year.”
Since breaking into the side at the tender age of 16, McGuigan (a business development representative with tech company Qualtrics) has become a regular fixture at senior club level with Thomas Davis. She played a starring role in their All-Ireland junior success of 2012 and also featured in their 2013 intermediate final reversal to Galway’s Claregalway 12 months later.
She includes inter-county stalwarts Siobhan McGrath and Olwen Carey amongst her team-mates on the Kiltipper Road and McGuigan joined them on the Dublin panel last year as the Metropolitans secured their third consecutive Brendan Martin Cup triumph.
“Last year I was delighted. It’s something that you dream of and I’d seen Olwen and Siobhan achieve so much that it was great to be able to lift the cup with them,” McGuigan recalls.
“I look up to them so much. They’ve achieved so much as players on the pitch and off the pitch. It was disappointing for me this year to see Olwen take a break.
It was kind of different for me going out to Dublin this year and not having her there and then Siobhan with her break at the start of the year as well. They’re amazing players and hopefully Olwen will be back next year, please God.”
Thus far, McGuigan’s on-pitch involvement with the Dublin seniors has been confined to the LIDL National League – making a total of eight substitute appearances over the past two seasons.
Though breaking into a forward line laden with individual and collective honours is proving exceedingly difficult, the Maynooth University and TU Dublin graduate understands the value of being a good squad player.
“The team is incredible, there’s always competition in the in-house game. It’s definitely a tough team to break into. The girls are insane.
The forward line and midfield, it’s just really, really tough. The in-house games, I would have treated them as championship games last year to push myself.
“When you’re going out on the B team and you’re marking players like Niamh Collins, Olwen or Martha Byrne, you’re thinking to yourself ‘I need to play as well as I can to prepare them going into the All-Ireland semi-final, or to the All-Ireland final, next week’. That’s the way I would have had my mind set,” McGuigan added.