From playing Camogie on a beach in Barcelona to making history with Saint Judes
Scroll back to last March and you would have found Faye McCarthy on a beach in Barcelona, making locals do a double-take whenever she arrived with her hurl and sliotars to do some training.
Fast forward seven months and she and St Judes have made
Not only did they contest their first Dublin senior final but they beat Na Fianna to make history and also earn an exciting maiden voyage in the AIB Leinster Senior Club Camogie Championship.
McCarthy's Spanish odyssey was not a whim or a holiday skite.
The 21-year-old from Templeogue studies Product Design in DIT and spent her five-month 'Erasmus' exchange at a Spanish university in the famously creative city.
“I was studying in Barcelona from last January to May,” she explains.
“I used to practise on the local beach with a Scottish guy in the college who had played Shinty. The locals did give us some funny looks alright, like: 'What? Weapons on the beach?'
“But I was lucky enough that Dublin funded me to come home every few weeks. They flew me back for friendlies and matches so I actually played three out of our five national league matches.”
McCarthy was catapulted onto the national consciousness in 2017 as the star goalkeeper for Dublin who progressed to the All-Ireland senior semi-finals for the first time in 17 years.
She credits ex-Kilkenny goalkeeper David Herity (who has just stepped down after two years in charge) for helping take her game to a new level.
He spotted her playing in the 2015 Dublin intermediate final, called her up to the county seniors and also entrusted her with long-range free-taking which she also does for the club.
McCarthy has been Leinster Poc Fada champion and attributes some of
that to her 5' 11” height.
“I put a lot of it down to having long limbs but distance is not about strength at all, it's about technique.
“Practice is also a huge thing too. David drilled that into me, that I could get another 10 yards by practising. He also fixed my frees. I had no real set routine so they were really inconsistent and he really drilled that routine into me too.”
Dublin's recent intercounty success is mirrored by her Southside club team which includes three more intercounty seniors in Hannah Hegarty, Leah Butler and Niamh Gannon.
“We were always quite successful underage, a fair few of us won Dublin Feile (U14) titles in camogie and football in one year and a county U16.
“Our senior breakthrough came two years ago when we won Division Two
– the Dublin intermediate title. We beat Skerries in the final and
that was a huge moment for us.
“This year our Division Two also won the championship so we did the Dublin double. It's also the club's 40th anniversary and our lads have reached the county football final so this has been a massive year for St Judes.”
A video of the great reception their camogie heroes got in the club has been doing the rounds on social media and McCarthy says 'Judes' is a great example of the 'one club' model where all players are treated equally.
She first got involved with her sister Celia, through neighbour Mary Joyce, who was involved with the club and the local primary school.
She also includes their current team manager Donie Fox as one of 'Jude's unsung heroes. “He is very low-key but has made us all better by implementing a system where we are correcting and leading ourselves.
“I'd also have to mention my dad,” she adds. “Himself, Sheila Power and John Coman coached a lot of our team from U10 to U16.”
Pío McCarthy is a native of Templemore so she also has a grá for the Tipp hurlers but there's no such tug of loyalties on the other side as her mother is German.
“I think I spoke German before I spoke English when I was a kid,” she reveals of a duality which may prove useful in her future career.
“I'm in my final year in DIT and have no plans as yet, just that I'd like to go into a sustainable design approach.
“Whether that's in Ireland or abroad I'll have to see. There are not many (design) opportunities in Ireland so I am open to moving at some stage. That might take me away from camogie for a while but I'm not worried because I know I will always come back to it.”
Asked if there are changes she'd like to see in the women's game she says: “I'd reiterate a lot of what (Dublin teammates) Eve O'Brien and Laura Twomey have said recently.
“I'd like to see the rules changed about contact. We want equality in terms of rules with the men's because we are physically able for it. The game has to develop.
“Even when I played as a forward in the past, scoring with a hand-pass just isn't the same as scoring a proper goal. We don't need it.”
The only blip on her dream season came when Dublin were badly beaten by Galway in this summer's All-Ireland quarter-finals.
The Blues' lost almost half of last year's team through travelling or injuries but McCarthy refuses to soft-soap it. “Yes, we lost a lot of players but we also gained new ones and younger girls who really brought the team on. It sounds like a bad excuse but, honestly, we just had an 'off' day.”
Her attitude to her worst ever experience between the post – letting in nine goals in a colleges' game' – reflects her steely attitude.
“As a goalkeeper you need to get used to being beaten. It's another skill you have to practice, a mental one. If you're getting stressed out about letting goals in you'll be useless,” she observes. “It's not something that comes easy to me, I definitely have to work at it.”
St Jude's face a baptism of fire in their Leinster debut, travelling to take on the defending champions Thomastown, led by the mighty trio of Farrell sisters.
“Winning the county final was huge for us so we're just taking this as the icing on the cake. We've a lot of young players. Speedy, fast girls and we're really fit which should stand to us. As big as the match is we're not going to let it get to us. We'll just go out and enjoy it and use the opportunity to try to show how well we've been playing all year.”
St Judes (Dublin) play Thomastown (Kilkenny) in the AIB Senior Camogie Semi-Final on October 28th in Thomastown at 2pm.