by Daragh Ó Conchúir
Patrice Diggin is looking forward eagerly to tomorrow's Littlewoods Ireland Camogie Leagues Division 3 Final against Roscommon in the Ragg, Co. Tipperary (throw-in 2pm), aware that it represents another step forward in the Kerry journey.
The 22-year-old is the most recognisable member of the panel, having been hailed for her contribution as University of Limerick won the Ashbourne Cup in 2014, 2016 and 2017. She was Player of the Match in the 2016 Final and captain when they retained the title.
Even as a teenager, she drove Kerry to victory in the Munster Junior Championship and the Division 4 League in 2015, while last December, her club Clanmaurice only lost out on becoming All-Ireland Junior Club champions in a replay to Kilmessan, having been pegged back by a goal deep in injury time in the drawn encounter. She ended 2017 by being named Munster GAA's Camogie Player of the Year.
Diggin has admitted previously that when she went training at UL first, she was afraid to put on her Kerry gear, surrounded as she was by so many players from Senior counties like Galway and Tipperary in particular. That third level experience gave her a boost but had a wider consequence too.
"It definitely did give me a bit of confidence and made me better" states the Causeway native. "And it showed girls in Kerry what is possible. Out of all the girls in the Kerry team, any one of them would make it, I've no doubt about that. Our full-back, Niamh Leen was on the Ashbourne panel this year. It just goes to show that the talent is there in the county."
Yet like those hurling in the Kingdom, the Camogie community is a very small one in North Kerry.
"The girls that are playing Camogie with the county are the girls that are playing Camogie" is how Diggin describes it. "That's it. There's no-one outside of that. There isn't the clubs there for them. There are 32 or 33 girls on the panel and they are the girls playing Camogie in the county at Senior level."
They have turned that into a positive, forming a very close bond.
"Everyone knows everyone. We're from such a tight-knit community in North Kerry. Everyone has each other's backs."
That was evident from the support Clanmaurice had as they became Munster champions and went within seconds of All-Ireland glory.
"All the clubs always back us. They're always there to support us. We got great support for that last year and that has continued this year. In Abbeydorney, we've had great support the last two Sundays. That stands to you, especially when it comes to a tight game. You need that behind you."
Thinking about December is difficult for the midfielder but it will be used to bolster the green and gold campaign.
"There's probably still a bit of 'We won't mention that' with the club. But it was a good year. And that hurt will stand to us with the county. The majority of us would have been playing in that game and we won't want that hurt to come back into the dressing room this year with anything."
Fantastic progress has been made. That is evidenced by their previous outings against tomorrow's opponents.
The primrose and blue accounted for their League aspirations at the penultimate hurdle 12 months ago but they finished level on 0-7 apiece in difficult conditions in the group stages of this year's competition.
"We made the Semi-Finals the last two years and this year now we've managed to reach the Final. We're hoping to get that step further and get out of Division 3 and get into Division 2 but we'll have to see how Sunday goes.
"Roscommon are always our biggest rival. There's never anything much between us. There's always the few points in it in the end. It will be a tough, hard game.
"At the start of the year, one of the main goals was to get out of Division 3 and win Division 2, and win the Championship as well. But we're taking it every game as it comes. So Sunday is our next hurdle and we're going to focus on that now and forget about everything else in the rest of the year until Sunday is over."