THIS week I was trying to think of the best 15 that I had ever played with. In the end I eventually just picked the best three players that I had played alongside.
Each player has similar traits, both in the dressing rooms and off the field, but they are different types of characters off it.
1) Máirín McAleenan
The first player up is Máirín McAleenan, or ‘MoMac’ as she was more well known as in camogie circles.
I first remember Máirín from watching her play for Down and Liatroim when I was playing underage for Clonduff. She was a supreme athlete with a work ethic unlike any other on a pitch. If you looked up commitment and dedication in the dictionary Máirín’s name would be beside it. She was totally committed to her sport and to getting the best out of herself at all times.
Máirín’s passion for the game is ferocious and she looked after herself like a professional athlete long before training outside the pitch became popular. She was always one of the hardest working players on the pitch and virtually impossible for any defender to pick up because she covered every inch of grass.
Máirín was a prolific forward and when the chips were down she quite often picked a team up and carried them through. Máirín spent hours upon hours practicing her free-taking and point-taking, she was unerring from placed balls and she was also very tough.
Máirín never shied away from winning a dirty ball or winning her own battle on the field, quite often she was double-marked and would always still come out with the ball. An absolute lady off the pitch and someone I am very fortunate to have played with and have gotten to know.
2) Jane Adams
The second player that I consider myself lucky to have played with was Jane Adams from the Rossa club in Antrim. Along with Maureen, Jane is probably the most recognised name in Ulster camogie since the turn of the century.
Jane is a natural athlete and her biggest asset was her pace, she was simply uncatchable. I played with Jane in Jordanstown and also with Ulster, she is one of the finest players to have ever played the game across all generations and all counties in Ireland.
They often say that one player can’t win a game on their own, but Jane defies this logic. Whether she was played in midfield or in the forward line, if you had Jane in your team you were half way there.
Jane was as tough as nails and unbelievably brave, she came in for a lot of tough tackling and never once shied away or gave up. Her free-taking was exemplary and I can remember her shooting points from impossible angles and distances with great regularity.
She never let her teammates down and was always a go-to person when you were under pressure in matches. For all her talent and glory, Jane was an ultimate team player. She was unselfish and always played the ball to someone in a better position if it was possible.
Jane was a leader on the field and in the dressing room too. She has gone on to do brilliant things in the world of business. Jane was a brilliant player and is also a fantastic person off the pitch.
3) Sara Louise Carr
The final player I have picked in my top three players is close to home and is my sister Sara Louise.
I’m fortunate to have played club and county with Sara Louise and I use the word fortunate because it meant I only had to mark her in training and it was more than enough.
Sara Louise is a classy and stylish camogie player, she is exceptional at fielding a high ball and her high catches can provide inspirational moments in matches.
Sara Louise is athletic, strong, powerful and deceptively quick. When she runs at a player it is impossible to stop her and she brushes past defenders with ease. She is a lethal threat at the edge of the square and has won more games for us by catching the ball and driving it to the back of the net.
What people probably don’t recognise is Sara Louise’s ability to win dirty ball and close down defenders, one minute you think you’re away from her and the next thing is she is beside you for a hook or a block.
She can take scores from distance and is the ultimate team player. She will always look up and see what the best option is to take, whether that’s her own score or laying the ball off.
Sara Louise has been a leader for Clonduff and for Down for a number of years, she never shies away from hard work and demands the same standards from those around her.
Those are my three stand-out players, three players who have inspired me in my camogie career. They are three people I also have the utmost respect for and while different personalities and players, they all make the people that play around them better.
For any young players reading the above, no matter what sport it is they play they will see a common thread among the three players above.
In any team I have ever been in, the best players have also been the hardest working. They dedicate themselves to their sport and to themselves, they’re honest with themselves and with that honesty they give 100 percent all of the time.
If you want to be a player that is remembered, work the hardest, be honest, be committed and be humble.
If you have those four things then the rest will fall into place.