'Each year brings something different in terms of players, management, challenges'

June 15, 2024

Galway's Ailbhe Davoren with Maire O'Shaughnessy Meath

By Daire Walsh  

She is midway through her eighth season on the senior inter-county scene and while her status within the squad has changed since she first broke into the set-up, Ailbhe Davoren is still enjoying every second of her time as a Galway footballer. 

Having previously donned the maroon and white in the underage ranks of the LGFA — she was on a Galway side that lost out to Cork in an All-Ireland minor championship final in 2015 — Davoren scored two goals on her debut for the Tribeswomen in a Connacht Winter League semi-final against Mayo in January 2017. She went on to make a further 11 appearances that year, including an outing as a substitute when Galway once again defeated Mayo in a TG4 Connacht Senior Football Championship decider. 

She started at centre-forward when Daniel Moynihan’s side got the better of their nearest rivals in a provincial showdown that was held at St Brigid’s GAA in Kiltoom last month — a late goal from Andrea Trill putting the seal on a 1-11 to 0-9 victory. After taking over the role at the start of the year, this also presented Davoren with a first opportunity to lift some silverware as Galway captain. 

“It’s my eighth season now and I love it. Just thoroughly enjoy it. Each year brings something different in terms of different players, management, different challenges. We wouldn’t be doing it if we didn’t enjoy it. It can be great craic if you’re involved in a team,” Davoren said. 

“You do spend an awful lot of time with the team and the players, and ladies football teams are renowned for being able to have the craic then as well. It’s not all serious or hard work. We do love it as well.” 

Being able to enjoy rather than endure the life of an inter-county footballer is particularly important for Davoren, who faces a considerable commute to and from Galway training for a sizable chunk of the calendar year. In more recent times, Davoren has been working as a teacher at St Andrew’s College in Dublin — a school that counts past and present professional rugby players such as Andrew Porter, Jordan Larmour, Felix Jones and Peter Bracken amongst its more notable alumni. 

This has led to her clocking up a significant number of miles during the winter, spring and early summer months, albeit she will get a chance to base herself a little closer to home in the next few weeks now that the school year is drawing to a close. 

“That’s what makes living in Dublin a bit more doable. The fact that I do have summer holidays to come home to and commit fully to the team,” Davoren acknowledged. 

“Even just having extra time to look at extra shooting or whatever, it’s just brilliant. I think there’s enough inter-county players that are teachers and it does suit the inter-county.” 

Although she continues to line out for her home club of Moycullen on a camogie side that is coached by her uncle (her sister is also a part of the same team), March of last year saw Davoren completing a football transfer to Dublin's Kilmacud Crokes. 

Given her Galway team-mate Dearbhla Gower was already part of the set-up, and she was already living in the capital, Davoren viewed joining the Stillorgan club as a natural fit. 

It proved to be a memorable first season with Crokes for the University of Limerick graduate as she picked up top honours in both the Dublin and Leinster Senior Club Football Championships. She was also a prominent figure as Kilmacud lost out narrowly after extra-time to a Kilkerrin-Clonberne side featuring many of her inter-county colleagues at the semi-final stage of the All-Ireland Senior Club Championship.

“It was a brilliant run and I look forward to it again this year. To get out of Dublin it’s very difficult and then out of Leinster. We can’t count our chickens yet in terms of what game we might end up in at the end of the year. As much and all as we’d love to, and you can obviously go on the form of last year, anything can happen along the way. 

“They’re a super club. The management are brilliant and the players are great. Incredible experience. I’d always say all of them could be playing for Dublin and many of them have in the past and we’ve many more adding to the mix with their county final success. I’ll be meeting club-mates, hopefully, if we keep going in this championship.” 

While last Sunday saw Davoren attending Tom Jones’ concert at St Anne’s Park on the northside of Dublin with some close family members, the same day saw Cork and Laois kick-starting Group 3 of the TG4 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship with a clash in Laois Hire O’Moore Park, Portlaoise. Yet after being idle on the opening weekend of the Brendan Martin Cup, Galway will get their own campaign up and running this afternoon against the aforementioned Cork at MTU Cork (throw-in 1pm). 

The Tribeswomen will be hoping for a repeat of their group success over the Leesiders at Pearse Stadium in Salthill a little under 12 months ago, but Davoren (who was a panellist when Galway last reached an All-Ireland senior final in 2019) recognises the challenge that will be posed by an outfit that recorded a 6-13 to 1-5 win over Laois last weekend. 

“We wouldn’t often look back at last year because it does change so much from year-on-year. Teams change and even last weekend, weather had an impact on games. You kind of have to take every game as it is, I know it’s a cliché,” Davoren added. 

“We won’t be taking any of last year’s wins as a rite of passage or anything like that to win this game. It will just be about taking this game this year. This Cork team and see how we can break them down. 

“Anyone in their circles would never underestimate Cork. Cork are steeped in ladies football and have loads of choices, and loads of options. We definitely won’t take their league and losses or anything as a given that they aren’t up for this battle. They put up a massive performance against Laois at the weekend. That’s an indicator of their form.” 

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