“I may be wrecked sometimes but it’s like a drug, I can’t leave it go.”
When Rebecca Delee climbed the steps of the Hogan stand last September to lift the All-Ireland junior ladies football title, it wasn’t the trophy she had set out to win the previous January.
Hailing from the small parish of Castlemahon in Limerick, the 23 year old has been an avid camogie player for as long as she can remember. While the interest in football was there, the small ball often took precedent, until a call from the Limerick ladies football manager John Ryan in August made the UL student reconsider.
“John Ryan was ringing and asking me would I play but initially I felt it was too late in the season to give commitment to both codes. I wanted to give my 100% commitment to camogie seen as how I had been with them from the start.”
Plying her trade around the half-back line of the Limerick senior camogie team since 2014, Delee hadn’t represented the footballers since 2016 but persistence from Ryan coupled with a championship exit for Limerick camogie, set-up a fairy tale ending to 2018 for Delee and the beginning of a new journey in a Limerick football jersey.
“Last year with Limerick camogie we had such a poor year. I remember after that Waterford match thinking this year has been awful, nothing is happening and so on and then John rang me asking to join again but I had to take a lot of things into consideration. I felt it was very wrong joining a panel when you haven’t trained all year. “
Delee’s initial trepidation soon turned into excitement when she made the decision to commit to the footballers. It wasn’t long before she earned a starting berth against Carlow in the All-Ireland quarter finals and from there it was a whirlwind journey to the steps of the Hogan stand. Delee hit 2-01 in the All-Ireland final against Louth, rightfully earning her the Player of the Match award.
“It’s mad when you think about it. A month after losing to Waterford, I was above in Croke Park being called over for Player of the Game and I couldn’t believe it, I was thinking ‘What is happening?’”
Not long after her Croke Park masterclass, Delee received a call to link up with the UL O’Connor Cup squad, another call she didn’t expect but again, Delee quickly made a big impression earning herself a start against UCC in the opening round of the third level competition.
“I wasn’t even expecting a call to join the squad but I just thought the training would be great. It’s really challenging in comparison to Ashbourne and I think a lot of that has to do with confidence. I suppose walking into the Ashbourne set-up I thought right, I’ve played with Mary I for four years, won a Purcell in first year and played Ashbourne then and I was playing senior camogie with Limerick but then with O’Connor Cup, if they even passed me the ball I’d just want to get rid of it as quickly as possible, but when I was told I was starting I was shocked, I didn’t expect it at all!”
While the O’Connor Cup competition is still ongoing, Delee was part of the UL senior camogie squad that clinched a phenomenal fourth Ashbourne title in a row a few weeks ago. Similar to her football exploits, Delee was hesitant to link up with the Ashbourne squad having only begun a Master’s in Education, the Mary I graduate was conscious of the amount of time she could commit to sport.
“It was quite difficult to get back into Ashbourne again, you’re thinking I’ve played for four years am I going to go again? Especially with Limerick camogie, Limerick football and then O’Connor Cup came, so I was worried I took on too much but then getting to that weekend and actually winning, it was unreal and when you realise you have just won an Ashbourne, it makes it all worth it.”
Over the last number of weeks, Delee has been committed to six teams between club, county and college, which begs the question, how does she do it?
“To be honest, I don’t even know myself.” Laughs Delee. “I may be wrecked sometimes but it’s like a drug, I can’t leave it go.”
“Some days I’m thinking ugh, I really don’t want to go to training, will I just ring to say I can’t go? But then once I get in my car, drive in and train, I feel unreal and think ‘I love this’. Sometimes you just have to hold onto that feeling and when you feel like you don’t want to train again you just remind yourself that you love it and wouldn’t do it otherwise.”
Despite the hectic schedule, Delee is looking forward to the year ahead in which she will try to master both crafts at inter-county level. Both camps she feels, are moving in the right direction and the ever increasing support is elevating Limerick women’s GAA to a new level. So far this season, the camogie squad has played a historic double header with the Limerick hurlers, and the Woodlands Hotel announced their sponsorship of both the camogie and ladies football squads.
“We would be lost without the Woodlands. With the camogie we have had them for the last five years and they have been super. They came on board last year with the ladies football just before the All-Ireland final and have now committed to supporting us this year also which is massive.”
“I think the coverage the limerick senior camogie is getting is unbelievable. Playing in the Gaelic Grounds was class, all of a sudden it was just packed. You could do something and the roar from the crowd was unbelievable. You are nearly taken aback by it but at the same time, after the match you are buzzing, that’s where you want to be and it’s where we should be.”
Rebecca was speaking with Lisa Crowley for wgpa.ie.