As our clubs prepare to get back into competitive action next weekend we continue Dermot Woods’ series of interviews with Louth LGFA’s leading lights. This week its the turn of St Fechins and Louth star, Ceire Nolan who unfortunately won’t be back on the pitch for a while yet as she recovers from an a serious leg injury sustained while playing for her county in an NFL match in Owenbeg on Mar 8th this year. Scans revealed damage had been done to the anterior ligament requiring major surgery.
What do you remember about the injury happening and did you know it was serious at the time?
- I can remember it all so clearly, i can actually feel it happening again if i think about it. I was running with the ball and just tried to change direction, there was this pop and an exploding pain in my left knee. It was horrible, all I could do was scream to let the pain out, I nearly broke poor Eilis’ hand,I was squeezing it so tight. I didn’t think it was as serious at the time, as it turned out to be.
When you got the word that your ACL was torn, was that a shock?
- I was in college (DCU) with the physio and I just asked him if he could have a look at it. He did the ACL test and he just looked at me and said ‘uh oh’. I turned to mam and I just bawled, to me if you said ACL tear to a GAA player, it was just the worst thing that could ever happen, it broke my heart.
Have you spoken to others who have suffered a similar injury?
- I’ve been talking to Emma (Singleton), she tore her ACL when we were playing in 2018, she’s one of the only people I know to have torn it, it’s been really nice to have someone who actually knows what you’re talking about, who’s been through it before, to talk to.
Is this the biggest challenge you have faced in your career and how did you remain positive?
- It definitely is the biggest challenge for me, being 20 and having a torn ACL isnt ideal. When I got word on the surgery originally (April), I was given exercises to do to prepare for it, they got me motivated again, I did find it hard for the first few weeks, but I just wouldn’t let it get to me, I’ve a bit of a stubborn streak in me so that actually helped me to just get on with it and prepare my leg for the surgery. Mam was a great help too, she constantly encouraged me whenever i was doing exercises or going running, there’s no room for negativity in my house!
What is the recovery process?
- It’s a long recovery, I’ll be at physio every week when I’m off crutches and I’ll be trying to fully bend my knee and get all my muscles back functioning normally. It’ll be a while before i’m back running anyway, but I’ll take as long as it needs and hopefully I’ll better than ever!
2019 was a fantastic year for Louth, after the disappointment of losing to Limerick 12 months earlier in the final, how did it feel after beating Fermanagh?
- The loss in 2018 really hurt us, for a lot of us it was our first time in Croke Park and the occasion really got to us, but I will never forget when the buzzer went off last year (2019). It is one of my favourite memories ever. I remember looking at the screen and there was like 30 seconds to go and just thinking to myself ‘we’ve actually won, they can’t catch us now’ and then trying to make myself look busy on the half back line in case Darren saw me staring at the screen! It was amazing, I still get shivers thinking about it.
What has it been like to represent your county in two All-Irelands in Croke Park before your 21st birthday?
- To play with my county and to have made the friends i have from playing with Louth, is just unbelievable. For the last few summers ive spent more time with the girls training in Darver than i have with my family, and to get to win an All Ireland with them in Croke Park of all places is amazing.
What has your impression been of new manager Wayne Freeman and the form of Louth this year?
- When we started the year, we had a goal to win the league after the semi final heartbreak last year. We were playing so well as a unit and Wayne and Lee were really helping us by making some positional changes with girls from last year as well as bringing new girls in. Wayne has built on the foundations, created by Darren as well as bringing his own style and approach to the team. It was so unfortunate that we didn’t get to finish off the league, but the girls are definitely going to give the championship 100%.
Club wise it wasn’t a great year last year for Fechins but 2018 was brilliant as you beat a strongly fancied St. Pats in the Intermediate Championship final and reached the Div 1 League final
- 2018 was a great year for the Fechins, they say 3rd times a charm and so it was. Last year wasn’t our year but the girls are back training now and they’re in great shape, they’re definitely giving it everything now for both league and championship, with me as a very enthusiastic water woman on the sideline!
Your grandfather was an accomplished sportsman and 1971 was probably his greatest ever year, Any other notable achievers in the family?
- Mick was a great hurler and footballer, he played with the Roscrea team that won the first All Ireland Club Hurling Championship. He also played minor and senior football and hurling for Tipp. My uncle Michael, was a great Sprinter, he has all sorts of medals and trophies for different competitions they’re all over my granny’s house. My brothers a good golfer too, I did play a bit, but I don’t have the patience for it.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
- I don’t know if I just have one, of course my family. My Mam because she’s always supported me between driving me to Darver for u12 trials and doing water woman in Croke Park, she never lets a negative thought enter my head, all I ever hear is ‘PMA’ (positive mental attitude). My family have all always supported me through everything and encouraged me to play and I will always be grateful.
Do you have a favourite photograph from your career?
- There’s a picture of my grandad and I shaking hands in Croke Park, It’s class. There’s also a picture of Roisin (Kavanagh) and I after we won the semifinal of the all Ireland in 2018 against Derry, after the last few minutes of that match the picture just shows how delighted and relieved we were to get to Croke park for the final!
Have you played other sports?
- I played basketball in school, it wasnt physical enough for me, I used to always get sin binned for tackling like I would in gaelic. I did sprinting for a while too. I think I’m better with team sports though, I love the encouragement and the craic from the girls when we’re playing.
Who has given you the best piece of advice during your career?
- My Dad always says to me ‘Fail to prepare, prepare to fail’ anytime we would have a hard training session and i would be giving out about how tired i was or any other complaints, there’s no shortage of complaints coming from me and it gives me the encouragement to get on with it and keep going, whatever goal it is im working towards at the time.
What piece of advice would you give to up and coming players?
- Keep trying your best and don’t be afraid to make a mistake, you learn from them!