'There have been many ups and downs along the way' - My LGFA Life with Tipperary's Emma Cronin

My LGFA Life with Emma Cronin – Tipperary Footballer

Age: 20
Club: Moyle Rovers
College: Maynooth University, Psychology through Science, 3rd Year
County debut: 2018
Notable achievements: Lidl National League Division 2 medal, TG4 All Ireland Intermediate medal

Q: Emma, thanks for chatting to us. How have you found your experience of playing Ladies Football?

A: My experience playing Ladies Football has definitely been eventful anyway. There have been many ups and downs along the way with both my club and county. When I first made the Tipperary team, I was absolutely delighted to be on the team but they were getting ready to face the Division 2 League Final (2018). I was new in so I felt like I had to prove myself to the well-known girls on the Tipperary team. Then we won that but getting regelated from senior (2018) was a very low point. However, all of the girls on the team had great heart and determination to turn it around to get back up senior again by winning the Intermediate last year. Then with my club Moyle Rovers, I can always come back to them and fit right back in like I never left. I know if I’m finding it hard to get back to my old self because something happened playing county, playing club football helps me get back into the rhythm of how I want to play.

Q: What was it that sparked your interest in the sport from a young age?

A: Watching my Dad play was one of the main reasons I started playing football. He played on county teams when I was just born and he’s still playing to this day with his club at the age of 52! Going to every one of his matches with my brothers and sister from such a small age really laid the path for me on what I wanted to achieve in my career, and with him in my corner, cheering and coaching me from the sidelines playing as I get older.

A: When did you pull on the Tipperary jersey for the first time, and how big a thrill was that?

A: I’ve played on many county teams underage but the first time I put on the jersey for the Tipperary senior team was in 2018 when I started against Cork in a Munster senior semi final. I was so nervous because this was a do-or-die match to get into the Munster final. The mentors were telling me names of the players but I had no clue who any of them were at the time because I was so new. There were so many people watching the match too. It’s honestly crazy to think that I was marking some of the most skilled forwards in the country for my first ever match for the Tipperary team. Having said that, I will never forget it.

Q: What is the best thing for you about playing Ladies Football?

A: Playing Ladies football gives me so many opportunities to meet new people. I’m playing on three different teams at the moment with my club, Moyle Rovers, my college, Maynooth University and with the Tipperary team. If I didn’t play football I wouldn’t have met those girls that I play with. In Maynooth, they say that it’s like a club away from home and it definitely is that because all the girls are like a family really and it’s unreal to be part of that.

In action for the Maynooth Freshers.

Q: Who was the biggest influence on your career?

A: The biggest influence on my career has to be my parents. They encouraged me from such a young age and believed in me every step of the way, even when I didn’t. My Dad took on most of my underage teams in my club, driving me on and teaching me all the ropes on how to be the defender I am today. Then my Mam, for spending countless hours driving me to and from training and up and down the country to get me to a match. Even to this day, if Tipperary were playing in Donegal, my parents would make the trip up there to cheer me on.

Q: What are the main challenges that you have faced in your career so far?

A: The main challenges I have are balancing my work schedule on the weekends and going to training. I’m helping my Mam and Dad pay for my college, so I try to work two days on the weekends when I’m home but trying to get hours to suit both my manager in work and training is very difficult at times. Especially when matches come around, you have to book off the entire day but Mam and dad are just happy that I’m doing what I enjoy. Another challenge is I don’t drive yet so getting to and from training is hard enough as it is when I’m at home but when I’m in Maynooth it’s twice as hard. So, the county team has been very good to all of us girls in college and don’t get us to come down during the week, which relieves a lot of pressure and we can just focus on college and college football.

Q: You’re renowned as a tight-marking defender. What do you consider as the biggest strengths of your game?

A: From a very young age, I’ve always been a corner back who sticks to their player and had the mentality that the player I’m marking is my player and the overall goal is not to let her score. By having this mentality, I think my strengths are that I’m very good to get a block, a hand in and I have speed to get out in front if I need to.

Q: What do you do for a living/college, and how do you manage the work or college-life-sport balance?

A: I’m currently in college in Maynooth University doing psychology through science. I stay up in college Monday to Friday and come home on the weekends. During the week, I train with the college twice a week on Monday and Wednesday and as I said, the county team does not expect me to come home during the week. Then, on Friday when I come home, we usually have training with county and again on Sunday. Between those two training sessions, I try to get one or two shifts of work in as well. It is a lot of coming and going every week but I’m after getting into a routine of and I’m managing this as I get older.

Q: You were the proud winner of a TG4 All-Ireland Intermediate medal with Tipperary last year. What was the experience of playing at Croke Park and winning with your county like?

A: It definitely was a dream come true to be honest. From such a young age you dream of just being able to play a match in Croke Park. It was such an amazing experience to look up and see the amount of people sitting and watching the match. When we scored a goal during the match, listening to the crowd erupt made the whole experience that much better because all the hard work throughout the year was for that moment.

Q: What are your hopes and aspirations for the rest of your career?

A: The ultimate goal for every girl playing Ladies Football is winning an All Ireland senior Final for sure. With the club, we have so many good players to win county titles but we just can’t seem to get the final push to get us over the line so a big aim for me and my teammates at Moyle Rovers is to win a senior county title. In college, we got to the Giles cup weekend but it was sadly called off due to coronavirus so for me I hope we get back to it and win it out to get back up in the O’Connor Cup for my last year.

Q: Have you played other sports?

A: Yes. I played camogie with my club, Moyle Rovers, but I find it hard to find the time to commit to it when playing for three different football teams. It’s great craic to play with the girls in the club that play football too because you don’t have the savage pressure football brings at times.

Q: Do you have a favourite photograph from your career?

Lifting the Mary Quinn Memorial Cup with Emma Spillane (2). 

A: This photo means a lot to me because it’s not every day you get to play in Croke Park and at the end of it you lift the cup. Getting to lift the cup surrounded by my teammates, my family and friends was one of the moments in life you will never forget.

Q: You play your club football with Moyle Rovers. How have you found that experience and what is it about club football that’s so special?

A: Playing with county football is all well and good but at the end of the day club football made you what you are. I know for a fact that when big days come for county football, all my teammates in club are backing me one hundred per cent. When all of that’s over, it’s great to come back and play with the (club) girls. In my club in particular, we train at 7:30 on Saturday morning, that definitely shows that we want to be winning titles in the county and are determined to do so.

Q: You’re in a last-gasp situation with one of the country’s lethal finishers. How do you rate your chances of ensuring that the attacker doesn’t get a shot away or the opportunity to go through on goal?

A: I think the whole game really, you have the same pressure on you to stop the forward from scoring. That’s always the main aim. By keeping them on the side that they can’t score on, and not letting them get past you, it will help keep your chances of them not scoring to the minimum. If they are planing to shoot, you have to do everything in your power to get on their boot to get the block in. The girls on the same line as me, Maria Curley and Lucy Spillane, will do anything to help to keep the forwards from scoring too so we definitely all help each other in whatever way we can.

Keeping an eye on Cork’s Libby Coppinger. 

Q: What’s your career highlight?

A: Winning the TG4 All-Ireland Intermediate title last year has to be my career highlight and one I won’t forget. Lifting the cup after training months on end has to be the icing on the cake for any girl playing Ladies Football but playing with such a great bunch of girls makes it that much sweeter, to be up there with the top teams. I’m only 20 so hopefully this won’t be the last career highlight of mine.

Q: How confident are you that Tipperary can make a big impact in the 2020 TG4 All-Ireland Senior Championship?

A: I do think Tipperary can make an impact in the Championship because I think from being away from football for so long and only getting back into it again, it has made the girls more hungry to put it up to the teams we’re going to be playing in the rounds. You could see that in the club championship anyway. As a team, I think we have great resilience because not every team can win Intermediate, go up to senior to go back down again and come back fighting to win Intermediate again. Hopefully we can push on to make to a semi-final anyway.

Q: What piece of advice would you offer to up and coming young players?

A: I’m not the most confident person in normal day life but the advice that was given to me countless of times growing up was definitely to believe in yourself and work as hard as you can. Both of those things combined can get you a long way on whatever path you want to go on. Even if you don’t believe in yourself right now, if you take a step back and look around, your family, your teammates and management have faith in you. With them backing you, you have to back yourself.

Q: And who’s given you the best piece of advice during your career?

A: I had so many different managers over the years that told me bits and pieces that helped me in more ways than one. I think the advice that I was given at a challenge match against Meath by (Tipperary manager) Shane Ronayne was one I don’t think I’ll forget and try to do most matches. He told me: ‘Emma you have come out of your box’. By this he meant I’m not just a corner back who’s marking my player but I have to take a chance and go further up the field and help the girls. I’m a very by the book type of person in everyday life and putting myself in uncomfortable situations doesn’t sound like the ideal situation to me. By facing the problem head on, I know I could grow as a player and an individual, ultimately helping me.

Q: What hobbies do you enjoy?

A: Well, I enjoy watching and playing sports very much. If I have free time I love going on walks and hikes with my friends to new places I haven’t been before. I also love baking and cooking. Making something new to try and see if it’s going in the bin or if it’ll be made again – I’ll have many critics in the house to tell me anyway!

Q: You’re hosting a dinner party, and you can invite 5 people. Who’s on the list and what are you rustling up for your guests to eat?

A: Niall Horan, Colm Cooper, Novak Djokovic, Kevin Hart and probably my sister Michelle.

I’m a big fan of Niall Horan’s music but I’ve always been since he was in One Direction. I’ve always thought Colm Cooper was a fantastic forward and I wanted to be like him when I was older but I’m now playing on the other end of the field which is quite funny. I’d love to know what he hated that backs did and pick up a few tricks.

Novak Djokovic would be there as well because I love watching tennis and he’s my favourite player to watch. I’d sit in front of the telly watching a 3-hour match if I had the time.

Kevin Hart would be at the dinner because he’s so funny and is in a lot of the movies I like. He would make me laugh with whatever came out of his mouth.

My sister would be at the dinner too because since we were small we did absolutely everything together and kinda still do. She would kill me if she missed that opportunity!

I’d make steak, mashed spuds, veg and gravy for the main because that is one of my favourite meals to have. I’d beg Mam to make it if we don’t have it once every so often. After dinner, I’d top it off with Baileys cheesecake because I have perfected a recipe at this stage from making it so much.

Q: And finally, who’s your all-time sporting idol?

A: The player I looked up to most I think from such a small age was Aishling Moloney. She was always the player I wanted to be. From U12 right up to senior, there’s always been a rivalry between my club Moyle Rovers and Cahir. So she was, and will always be, the one you fear most playing I think. She’s one of the best players in the country at the minute and marking her is one of the toughest jobs you can get as a back. It’s just an added bonus that I actually play with her on the Tipperary team and not against her. By marking her at training, you can pick up a few things that can help you become a better defender.


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