Limerick and St Ailbes legend Pauline McCarthy. PIC: Marie Keating
JUST over a week after her 62nd birthday Pauline McCarthy scored the only goal of the game in Sunday’s Limerick Junior B Ladies Football final victory for St Ailbes.
Just another accolade in the remarkable career of a true Limerick GAA legend across an adult camogie and ladies football career spanning over 45 years.
“Age is only a number - keep playing as long as you can play,” full forward McCarthy told the Limerick Leader after captain Brid Madigan collected the trophy.
“Lots of people put pressure on you but why should you give up something if you like doing it. People would say ‘Are you still playing?’ Why wouldn’t I? I’m enjoying it just as much as ever,” she stressed.
“Why wouldn’t I enjoy it,” she added, pointing to her celebrating team-mates.
After a weekend where the Tipperary double success of Loughmore-Castleiney was heralded, McCarthy recalled it’s over 40 years since she won an All-Ireland club double.
“It was 1978 - I won the camogie with Ballyagran and the ladies football with Newtownshandrum. With Newtown we actually won the All-Ireland in ‘78 and ‘79,” she recalled.
“I thought nothing of it at the time but looking back now it’s crazy - back then they were only games,” she laughed.
Over 40 years later, McCarthy is back chasing another club double.
She is top scorer on the St Ailbes side that will contest the Limerick Junior B camogie semi final next weekend.
“I’ve been doing this all my life,” she said of the hectic schedule of games and training.
In Sunday’s football final McCarthy scored 1-2 in the opening half to set St Ailbes on their way to a 1-6 to 0-4 victory.
The goal came in the 18th minute when McCarthy gathered possession as she moved away from goal towards the sideline. On the turn she kicked ahead of an attempted block and found the far corner of the net.
“The goal sure was just a goal - I think it was Meadhbh (Hurley) who gave it to me and I just caught it and knew the girl was going to be on my back straight away so I said if I do this quick I will get the kick in and I turned and looked and it was going into the far corner. I have that in my game every now and then so I will take it,” she recalled.
“It was the winning of the game basically because it kept them at bay and they lost confidence I think. The younger girls are great - they run all day and I don’t have to do anything only - they give it in to me and if I can kick it, I kick it,” she said with a broad smile.
A native of Ballybricken, McCarthy played with a host of camogie and ladies football clubs during her career from Ballyagran to Ahane, among others.
Then St Ailbes was formed in her native parish club - firstly ladies football and since 2019 adult camogie.
“The reason this means more to me is because all my life I had to travel 20-30 miles to go training or to play with some other club because I had no club in Ballybricken. Now I have to go a mile and a half to training in Caherelly. To play with your own people and for your own people there is nothing like it,” she explained.
In 2005 McCarthy and St Ailbes won the Limerick junior title and added an intermediate crown two years later. They then progressed to win senior football titles in 2011, ‘12, 19 and 2020.
On Sunday, their second team won the county Junior B Ladies Football title with a final victory over Dromcollogher-Broadford in Croom.
"Last year with Covid-19 there was an awful lot of people around and I think it was the same with a lot of clubs and the girls. Sometimes it can be hard for the younger girls to come up into an adult situation so we bring them along to training and they get a couple of hops off the bigger girls and they get a bit tougher and the next thing they love it. We can have 30 girls togged out with our seniors and here today we had 21/22 girls and that’s great for the area,” outlined McCarthy.
But she adds: “camogie would be my first love and always will be”.
McCarthy played inter-county camogie with Limerick across four decades.
“Between junior, intermediate and senior I played with Limerick until about 2005,” she recalled.
Back in 1980 McCarthy was centre forward when Limerick played in their only All-Ireland senior camogie championship final.
“Beaten in a replay - the first day there was a disputed point to level the game. One umpire had it a point and the other wide and the referee agreed with the umpire who said it was a point and gave the point to Cork to level the game. They beat us two points the next day - just terrible,” recalled McCarthy, who had won an All-Ireland Junior Camogie Championship in 1977.
Subscribe or register today to discover more from DonegalLive.ie
Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.
Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.