Cathy Maguire: 'This is the biggest game in our careers'

WHEN Cathy Maguire declares that next Sunday’s All-Ireland senior ladies club football semi-final is the biggest game of her career, it’s worth sitting up and taking notice.

She was Cathy Donnelly before getting married early this year and the hugely-experienced St Macartan’s star lined out in a TG4 All-Ireland senior final for Tyrone back in 2010 at Croke Park.

Now 32, Maguire has amassed a wealth of experience with club and county – but getting to line out against Carnacon, who can call upon Mayo ace Cora Staunton, tops the lot.

In what’s very much a family affair, Maguire is joined on the St Macartan’s starting team by her sisters Joline, Maria and Paula, while cousin Lynda is also a key player.

Throw in the Woods sisters, the McQuaids, McGirrs and McCarrolls and you have an extremely close-knit bunch.

Team manager and former All-Ireland winner Ryan McMenamin is also married to key player Maura (Kelly) and it’s not difficult to understand why winning a first Ulster senior title recently, and venturing into the All-Ireland series, means so much.

Maguire says: “A few of us played for the county through the years and this is the biggest game in our careers.

“There’s nothing more special when it’s with your sisters and club-mates.

“Everything’s going good and we’re looking forward to it.

“It’s a new experience for us, coming out of the Ulster championship and into an All-Ireland semi-final up at home.

“There’s a great buzz about the community.”

Fr. Hackett Park in Augher will host Sunday’s tie, with five-time All-Ireland champions Carnacon the visitors.

And for Maguire, there’s a certain significance in terms of facing Mayo opposition.

Her last appearance in a Tyrone shirt came against the Westerners in 2015, when the Red Hands suffered a 0-3 to 4-15 defeat, on a day when Staunton registered 2010.

Maguire says: “My last outing for Tyrone was playing against Mayo – hopefully this is a better experience.

“From outside the (county) camp looking in, we’re representing Tyrone now and to be in a senior club semi-final can only give a boost to the county coming back.

Tyrone contested a TG4 All-Ireland intermediate final against Tipperary back in September, but were defeated by the Premier County.

The exploits of St Macartan’s at club level, however, could provide a shot in the arm for the county side ahead of the 2018 campaign.

The immediate focus for St Macartan’s is on Sunday, of course, and Maguire says: “Back in 2010, they were big games with a very special group of players.

“But to win an Ulster title with your club, it’s a more special feeling, and a more special achievement with a small parish.

“We were going in to play Donaghmoyne, the champions, and they’d beaten us so many times before.

“Everybody expected us to get beaten again, with the experience and players they have, and we’d come up short in the Ulster final last year.

“But if somebody told us we’d get back to the final, we’d have taken the arm off them.

“It was brilliant to be back but we were back to win it, not just turn up this time.

“Now, this is our biggest game yet. People are coming up to us and talking about Ladies football and St Macartan’s.

“They’re all talking about Cora coming to town and it’s created a massive buzz and massive talk about Ladies football and the club in general.

“Everybody’s talking about Cora but as a team, we’re under no illusions that there’s more than Cora. They have Claire Egan, Fiona McHale, Martha Carter, the McGings.

“There’s nine or ten we have to worry about but home advantage is massive and we’re going in with nothing to lose.”

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