Since it’s inaugural season in 2017, the AFLW has given some of Ireland’s most gifted LGFA stars the opportunity to test themselves. The majority of which are flourishing in their new environments. In what was a first of its kind for the league, Aisling McCarthy became the first Non-Australian to transfer clubs. After a prosperous couple of years with Western Bulldogs she made the move to Perth to the West Coast Eagles. Of course, it was her performances with her native Tipperary that made those ‘Down Under’ take notice. Stealing the show in the 2017 All-Ireland Intermediate Final, kicking 1-4 and taking away the Player of the Match award. But where did the journey begin? We went ClubSpotting with Aisling McCarthy to her hometown of Cahir to find out.
What are your first memories of your club Cahir?
I joined the Cahir club when I was 6 or 7 years of age. I played both football & camogie with the girls’ & boys’ teams. One of my earliest memories on the pitch, was when myself and Róisín Howard played 2 county finals with Cahir in Semple Stadium on the same day. The first game was with the girls under-12 team and then we had to quickly swap jerseys to play with the under-12 boys straight after.
Who were your sporting idols growing up?
I was lucky that I had female GAA role models growing up. In 2008, I was 12 and played in half-time mini games during the Intermediate All-Ireland Ladies Football Final. The Tipperary ladies were playing against Clare and after that day all I wanted to be was one of those Tipperary ladies players - a few years later I not only went on to play for Tipp but I actually played alongside some of those girls. It was great to have such palpable real life role models as a kid. Growing up, Cork were the kingpins of Ladies football and a player I really admired was Juliet Murphy - she was a complete footballer.
What has been the proudest moment of your playing career?
I’ve had a very successful career to date with both club and county. A very proud moment is captaining Cahir camogie team to All-Ireland Intermediate club success in 2016, and getting to climb the steps of the hogan stand. The proudest moment in a Tipperary jersey was the 2017 intermediate All-Ireland win; it was my first All-Ireland win in Tipp jersey. I went on to win ‘Player of the Year’ at the All-Stars which was a special moment for me and my family.
Toughest opponent you have faced?
The toughest player I’ve played against is Brianna Davey from the Collingwood AFLW team. She’s a class footballer and impossible to tackle - she’s seriously strong and a great team leader, she brings her teammates along with her.
Best Player you have played with?
I can’t go past my two club mates - both Róisín Howard and Aishling Moloney would have to be the best I played with. Two exceptional players and very different in their style of play. I love playing alongside them at both club and county. We’ve a special understanding of each other on the pitch.
How big a challenge has it been personally moving to the AFLW?
The physicality, the oval ball and the rules were all major challenges when I first started playing AFLW 3 years ago. I remember playing an in-house game in one of my first training sessions and the play kept being stopped for ball-ups, so I turned to the coach asking why - he immediately picked a time to meet me for coffee and go through all the rules. Literally had to learn the basics of the game.
After my first season, everything started to get a little bit easier. Although the oval ball still remains a challenge as it is so unpredictable, I feel I’ve gotten used to the physicality and it brings out my competitive nature.
What are your hopes and ambitions for the remainder of the season?
I’ve been out injured for 5 months with an LCL injury so getting back to full fitness and staying injury free are my big personal goals. For Tipperary, we have a relegation play-off against Tyrone so getting a win to preserve our senior status is our main goal. I hope to try contribute to the cause in any way I can. In AFLW, my team West Coast Eagles have signed some talented players during the ‘sign & trade ‘ period so I’m looking forward to continuing to grow as a team and hopefully pushing for a finals spot next season.
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