ROISIN McCafferty’s appointment as Donegal senior ladies team captain took the Termon woman by surprise – but a glance at the bloodlines shows that it was perhaps her destiny.
She is a cousin of Christy Toye, who captained Donegal to an Ulster final and All-Ireland quarter-final in 2006; another cousin is Johnny McCafferty, who featured in Championship football for Donegal in 2001 and 2003 and whose leadership qualities have been a feature of Termon teams for over a decade now.
The McCafferty name has been synonymous with football in the Termon area – and now one of their own captains the county again.
Seven years after her cousin Christy – son of her aunt, Rosemary – took the armband during Brian McIver’s first year in Donegal, Roisin McCafferty will lead out the Donegal senior ladies for the first time in Sunday’s National League clash with Laois in Bundoran.
On Tuesday, McCafferty was rubbing shoulders with the other captains of the Division 1 counties at the official launch of the 2013 Ladies National Football Leagues at Croke Park.
“It’s an absolute honour,” said the 21-year old Sligo Institute of Technology student.
“It’s the last thing I expected to be honest, but it’s a great honour going up to Croke Park to represent Donegal with the cream of the crop, even standing out there on the pitch you feel like someone special.”
She might only have turned 21 in October, but this will be McCafferty’s sixth season on the senior panel. In 2008, she played as Donegal were beaten by Clare in the Suzuki Ladies National League Division 2 final in Ennis.
The following year, though, she won a Minor Ladies All-Ireland title and in 2010 she kept a clean sheet in Donegal’s All-Ireland Intermediate Championship final win over Waterford in Croke Park.
Some of the leading lights of that team have dimmed now, with emigration denying Donegal the services of the likes of Yvonne McMonagle and Grainne Houston.
There’ll be no playing the poor mouth from the new captain – who insists that Donegal have to roll the sleeves up and get the work done.
She said: “It’s tough losing those kinds of players because they are such a big influence, but it’s time other players stood up now.
“Some of the players we’ve lost are irreplaceable, but we need others to step up now. We have the fitness and skill levels, so hopefully we can gel now as a team.
“That was a big thing we had the year we won it – we were more like a family than team.”
McCafferty has banked a huge portfolio of experience from her club exploits in the maroon of Termon, with whom she has won countless honours, including a League and Championship double in 2012, which came after a Donegal and All-Ireland senior Gaeltacht double.
Hughie Molloy has taken over from Micheál Naughton as ladies manager this year. Although Donegal have just one home game in the League – this Sunday’s – they’ll not be using the milage as an excuse.
McCafferty said: “Having one home game is crazy enough and there is a lot of travel for us, but we need to be able to prove that we’re up to this. It might work as an incentive in a way in that we’re going to their back yard and having to get something.
“Hughie is always talking about getting honesty in every game we play. We want to work away during the League and learn from every game. We need to keep learning and keep building.
“Our aim is to stay up. Teams probably aren’t expecting much from us, but we need to get the heads down and push hard.”
Molloy has promoted several promising players who have come through the underage ranks with Kenny Griffin in recent seasons in successful teams. Now, the likes of Aisleen Cunningham, Amber Barrett, Jade O’Donnell and Emer Gallagher have stepped up to the senior ranks.
“Those younger players are coming in and showing the older players on the team that they need to beware of their places,” said McCafferty.
“The first night they’d come in they were nervous and maybe intimidated even, but they’re now fitting in and are getting in on the jokes and are gelling in well.
“We’ve a lot of minors coming in from last year, around ten of them. I’d say the average age of the team is only 20 or 21. It’s good for the future.
“Hopefully we can do well and put up a fight. It just hasn’t happened for us in the last year or two, but we’re getting good numbers out at training now, around 26 or 27 every night we’re out.
“Maybe that’s something we’ve been lacking, but there’s a good feeling around the team now and everyone is fighting hard for places.”
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