Photo from @KClgfa
Kilkerrin-Clonberne star Olivia Divilly opens up on what winning an All-Ireland medal with the club would mean to her.
Lining out in an All-Ireland final is a feat that Gaelic Games players across the country dream about. Representing your county is a massive achievement, but representing your parish on the biggest stage, surrounded by those you grew up playing the game with, is one special step further.
Kilkerrin-Clonberne midfielder, Olivia Divilly, has had the opportunity to do both, with the latest of those coming this Sunday, as Kilkerrin aim to topple reigning champions Mourneabbey of Cork, in the Ladies Gaelic Football Association club All-Ireland final.
“It has been a good run,” said Divilly, reflecting on Kilkerrin’s quest for glory, “We had a really long season, I think we first started back in September, usually it would be much more condensed.”
“We had a good run through Galway and through Connacht, and while we did win some games quite well, we actually had some games as well that, throughout the game, there were sections where we were really challenged and things didn’t go our way, we used those opportunities to learn from that and move on into the next game.”
With Covid restrictions easing, things are starting to look up nationwide. But from a sporting perspective, the pandemic has more than left its mark. However, Divilly says that although it made things more difficult at times, it brought a sense of togetherness to the team.
“For the last two or three weeks especially, we’ve all definitely been trying to keep our numbers down as much as possible to make sure we didn’t let Covid get within the group.”
“We had everyone available last weekend as a result of everyone trying to keep as low a profile as possible, and hopefully we’ll have the same next weekend.”
The club scene in GAA revolves around parish pride, and Kilkerrin-Clonberne is no different. Even though this is their second All-Ireland final in as many campaigns, Divilly acknowledges the support the club has received, not just within the parish, but from all over the county too.
“I think we’ve had a lot of support from our own parish, but also from neighbouring parishes and all around Galway. There’s been a lot of ‘best of luck’ messages and a lot of support all over the county, which is great.”
“There will be excitement around the parish, there’ll be flags up and a great atmosphere around. We’re so privileged to represent Galway, and we do that with pride.”
Sunday’s final is pencilled in to take place in Birr, County Offaly. Even though the profile of the Ladies’ game is on a steady ascent, no Ladies club final has been played in Croke Park to date. Although current Galway footballer, and Kilkerrin Clonberne club-mate Shane Walsh was calling for the final to be played on a bigger stage, Divilly insists that the venue of the game is not a cause for concern.
“We’re happy to play it wherever to be honest!” she says with a laugh. “As long as we get out the right side of the draw, it’s not something that we’ve focused on too much over the last week. We weren’t sure where it was going to be played until maybe Thursday or Friday, but we’re happy enough that it’s going to be in Birr.”
“The LGFA have put a big effort in over the last number of years to raise the profile of the game, and I think they have done that quite successfully. It’s going to be on television again this year as well, so I think, on behalf of the group, we’re definitely happy with where it’s going to be played.”
Winning the fabled All-Ireland club championship is the stuff of legend. Having got as far as the final in 2019, Divilly admits it’s the one medal she craves the most.
“It will mean everything,” she said. “I don’t think there’s any greater achievement in Gaelic football than to win an All-Ireland final with your club team.”
“We’re a very small parish in North Galway, we’re a very close bunch and to get over the line with your friends and family would mean everything. We’ve put everything into it in the last six months to get to where we are, so there’s just one more step to get there.”
That step is overcoming Mourneabbey, the current All-Ireland champions. The County Cork side trounced Leinster champions, Dunboyne of Meath, in the semi-final, and also made light work of Kilkerrin-Clonberne in the final in 2019. Although there is a chance of redemption, Divilly reiterates that revenge certainly is not in Kilkerrin minds ahead of Sunday’s task.
“We’re not looking at it to get revenge, we’re very much focusing on ourselves. We want to win the All-Ireland and bring the silverware home, and we very much know what we have to do as a group,” said Divilly, with steely determination showing.
“We have nobody to blame but ourselves for previous failings, we’re looking very much at ourselves and what we can do better as a group, and continuing on from our All-Ireland semi-final, just to get over the line this time, hopefully!”
“They’re very tough opposition, we know exactly what they will bring to the table, but we are confident in ourselves as well, and there’s a great belief within the team.”
Club matters aside, it’s been a fantastic year for Divilly. Her form has been pivotal to both Kilkerrin and Galway of late, but she has turned heads in recent years as well, having been invited to participate in the AFL Women’s Combine in 2019.
She was one of the stand-out performers there, getting the third-best ever result in one of the trials. But at the moment, she is quite content to stay put with Kilkerrin-Clonberne on the hunt for silverware.
“For the moment, I’m definitely in Ireland,” Divilly stated firmly. “It’s not something that I’ve given any thought or consideration to. I haven’t thought about it in a while now, to be honest, but I’m very happy in Ireland.”
“I love playing the club championship, and the season with the club very much overlaps with the Australian Rules season as well, and that’s something that I’d never leave, I’d never miss playing club championship at home.”
After all, you can’t win All-Ireland medals in Australia.
The LGFA Senior All-Ireland Final between Mourneabbey and Kilkerrin-Clonberne will be broadcast on TG4 on Saturday, January 29, with the match throwing in at 1pm.