Despite playing county, Aoife Donohue never misses a training session for her club 3 months ago

Despite playing county, Aoife Donohue never misses a training session for her club

Aoife Donohoe was a soccer player for Kiltormer, first and foremost.

At under-nine and ten, she was one of the best players on the team. The fact that it was the lads team didn't matter. The harder the challenge the better it was.

By under-11, she had a schoolboys soccer medal but by under-12, she had gone a different way.

Meet Madge Kennedy. Kennedy was managing the under-14 camógs at the time and even when on the sideline of an underage soccer game, Mullagh camogie wasn't too far from the mind.

Donohue was streets ahead.

"I went down to her house after that game to get her to play camogie with Mullagh," Kennedy tells SportsJOE.

"The speed of her, the determination to get to that ball first."

"It was soccer but you just knew by the way she played, that she'd be skilful no matter what sport it was..."

Kennedy has a good eye for it. She was onto a winner.

Soccer may have been Donohue's first love, but camogie is in her blood. Her uncle Ray Duane, hurled with Galway while her mother Carmel had played for Galway and represented Mullagh with distinction for years.

It was never going to be any other way.

"She's been a key player for Mullagh all her life, from winning under-11, 13 and minor championships with the club to getting the county call-up. You always have a handful of standout players on any team but Aoife is the best player. In Mullagh, we couldn't ask for a better player, couldn't ask for a better club woman"

That club part being the key part.

In the fast-moving GAA world, the relevance of the club is often lost on busy and distracted inter-county players. Hard to blame them to a degree, when county training is often enough and long enough to take over a life.

Aoife Donohue helped Mullagh to an All-Ireland club camogie final in 2015

But the club should be special enough and important enough to get something back. After all, it's with the club where county players are made. It's the club that is always there for them.

Aoife Donohue lives by this club creed. Kennedy, that Mullagh camogie stalwart was their manager for three years up to 2018 and she can't remember a single session that Donohue has missed.

Kennedy tells a good one.

"I was concerned that Aoife could be getting burned out, that she was over-training. She was with the county for every session and for ours' she'd be at the wall-ball, she'd be pucking in balls. She'd come over half an hour early to hit frees and sidelines, you'd have to be over there with the sliotars for her.

"So because I knew she had college of a Wednesday night, I called training for Wednesday at 7.30 knowing that she shouldn't be able to make it.

"Aoife had a message in the WhatsApp by 6.30, 'I'll be over early if someone can bring the sliotars for 7.00..."

"I was like Aoife, 'what are you at?" 'I didn't go to college,' she replied with a laugh.

Kennedy wasn't all that surprised.

"She's so determined, so clued in. She lives it, drinks it. She'd be putting brilliant little messages into the group telling girls to go to bed early before games, saying she was going to the lake for a swim after. And before you know it, she'd have half the team with her. That's the example she sets."

Aoife Donohue is one of the most skilful camogie players in the country

On Sunday, Donohue plays in the biggest games of her life. A first All-Ireland senior camogie final, she's played a huge part in getting the Tribeswomen back to the big time.

Kennedy hopes that the apple of her eye can do the business again.

"Knowing Aoife, if they win and she doesn't have a good game, she will be mad with herself. Her best high profile game to date was that League final against Kilkenny earlier in the year but we're used to those days in Mullagh. She's very fast, a great first touch. She's had some year and one more good game and she'll be one of the Players of the Year.

"You'd have to be delighted for her."

For Mullagh and for Galway. It's hard to argue with that sentiment.