"I took a risk two years ago to step back from the soccer and I was lucky enough"
By Daragh Ó Conchúir
Motivation is a very personal thing. When Lisa Casserly was playing soccer for Ireland, that was all she wanted to do and though she was a club Camogie player with Ballinderreen, it was a hobby.
She smiles when thinking about a former Republic of Ireland teammate, who shared the experience of reaching the European Championships Semi-Final at Under 19 level in 2014.
Amy O’Connor was a vital member of that team but on away trips, she was always talking about St. Vincent’s and Cork, the hurley and the sliotar.
“It was Camogie, Camogie, Camogie with her all the time, even then” Casserly reveals. “You knew that was what she wanted to do more than anything else. She was a good soccer player but Camogie was her passion and it’s no surprise to see her having done so well.”
At that juncture, Casserly fancied travelling the type of route since taken by other teammates such as Katie McCabe, Megan Connolly and Clare Shine, who became Senior internationals and are full-time professionals with Arsenal, Brighton and Glasgow City respectively.
But having dedicated herself to excellence in that sphere, she opted to find out how far she could go in another, and like O’Connor, and Mayo ladies footballer Sarah Rowe, she turned the focus on a Gaelic code.
No doubt about it, the motivation was personal.
“I took a different route to Camogie. I started off with soccer and had been playing it since I was about five. I represented Ireland. I took a step back from that two years ago. I had always played Camogie with the club and always loved it but felt I hadn’t given myself the chance to break onto a county team.
“It was my grandfather who asked me to give it a go for one year to just see how I would go so I did it for him really.
“I was lucky enough to break into the Intermediates two years ago. Cathal (Murray) came in this year and he put me onto the Senior panel as well. I’m taking every day as it comes and really enjoying it.
“It’s a massive step up for me. The rest of the girls had been playing from Minor with Galway but they’ve been so good. I didn’t know them from Adam when I walked through the gates in Cappy (Cappataggle) a couple of years ago.
“It was so daunting. I’ll never forget it. It was our first training session up in Cappy, on the astro. I pulled up. There were girls getting out of cars, four and five girls in groups walking in. I didn’t know anyone and the heart was racing.
“But the girls were so lovely. They came over and introduced themselves and from there, they felt like family. To be honest, I feel like I’ve been playing with them all my life now.”
Casserly knows now she would have regretted not realising her potential in Camogie.
“I was trying to balance both. It was very hard. We were training in Dublin for the soccer and it was hard to get down for training with the club but any time I was around I was playing. Ballinderreen were so good, they worked around my schedule and I was able to play loads of matches but I could never focus on the Camogie.
“But I took a risk two years ago and decided to step back from the soccer and see how I got on and I was lucky enough to progress.”
Now, the 23-year-old HR recruitment consultant is a key member of the team that plays Westmeath in the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Intermediate Camogie Championship Final on Sunday (2pm), the tall, athletic midfielder showing an eye for a score to match her ability to cover the grass which should flourish in the Croke Park expanses.
Regardless of what happens in that game, she will be switching dressing rooms and changing jerseys as a member of the squad that contests the Senior decider (4.15pm) against Kilkenny.
In that group is another player who took the plunge in committing full-time to Camogie this season, having been known primarily as a ladies footballer for a decade.
Caitriona Cormican has flourished and played a huge role in the Semi-Final defeat of champions Cork with two points in the space of a minute in response to Julia White’s 18th minute goal. It rammed home the message that Galway would not be lying down.
“You just have to work hard. You can’t come in here and expect to be playing. I look up to Teeny (Cormican). She made a huge change as well so you learn from someone like her. It’s a dream come true to play in Croke Park now. Even when I was playing soccer, I always dreamed of playing in Croke Park for some reason.
“The mood is very good in camp. It would be when we’re playing in Croke Park. That was our goal last November, to get both teams to Croke Park. We’ve done that now and training’s been buzzing. There’s a lot of intensity because there’s an awful lot of competition for places which I think has driven both teams on.”
Lisa Casserly was never going to be found wanting for drive. The ultimate rewards are in touching distance.