Caragh McCarthy on going toe-to-toe with her club mates at inter-county level

February 24, 2024

Caragh McCarthy in action for Waterford against Meath

By Daire Walsh 

Meath’s Lidl National Football League Division 1 clash against Waterford at Fraher Field three weeks ago proved to be an interesting clash for the St Peter’s Dunboyne club within the Royal County. 

While their star duo of Shelly Melia and Emma Duggan were featuring at midfield and left corner-forward respectively in an eventual 2-10 to 2-5 victory for Meath, they also had a representative in the ranks of the opposition. Originally from the Abbeyside club — based just outside of the town of Dungarvan — Waterford wing-forward Caragh McCarthy transferred to Dunboyne in 2023 and subsequently featured for them during their march to last October's Meath senior county final. 

Given she has built such a strong bond with Melia and Duggan in recent times, McCarthy admits it does feel quite strange when she finds herself going toe-to-toe with the pair at inter-county level — even if her knowledge of these players can also be advantageous for Waterford. 

“You’re out having chats with them, you’re friends with them one minute and then you just have to put that aside for 60 minutes. It kind of helps as well that you know what way they play. Obviously they’re both very strong players,” McCarthy acknowledged. 

“They like to look for each other as well and they work really well together. You know their strengths, which is a bit of a bonus. You kind of have to really use it to your advantage when you know them that bit better.” 

Before throwing her lot in with Dunboyne, McCarthy had been consistently commuting to and from Waterford for a number of years. Previously a student in UCD, she now works as a teacher in Tyrrelstown Educate Together National School in Dublin. 

Her current place of employment is located a little over five miles from Dunboyne and for a couple of different reasons, a transfer to the Meath club was an ideal fit for McCarthy.

“I was up and down the road a good bit. It eventually took its toll on me. Coming up and down for Waterford, and then for club as well. I probably know that road so well, I could do it in my sleep now at this stage I’d say! 

“My boyfriend is actually from Dunboyne. He roped me into training with them and he would have had a few friends obviously on the team. The Duggans would be good family friends with them. Obviously Emma is up there and they just took me under their wing, and I transferred then. I started training with the girls while I was still up in UCD. 

“Obviously we came up short to Dunshaughlin last year in the Meath county final. Looking forward to getting back with them now this year and hopefully driving on. We’ve new management this year as well. A fresh start might push things on a bit more. Maybe get us over the line this year and I might get a senior county championship medal!” 

McCarthy is certainly not unaccustomed to club glory as she won a brace of Waterford intermediate championship titles with Abbeyside in 2016 and 2019 — in addition to a Munster intermediate crown in the former year and an All-Ireland intermediate 7s championship in the latter year. 

Both of these seasons also saw her picking up silverware in the inter-county game as a Lidl NFL Division 3 triumph over Tipperary in 2016 (her first year on the senior panel) was supplemented by a Division 2 final victory at the expense of Kerry three years later. 

Since that latter win at Parnell Park in May 2019, Waterford have managed to consistently retain their Division 1 league status and have also remained in the top tier of the All-Ireland championship in the years that followed their national intermediate success in 2015. 

Defeats to Armagh, Kerry and Meath in the opening three rounds of this year’s league did put Pat Sullivan’s side in a difficult position, but a 2-12 to 1-6 victory over provincial rivals Cork at Pairc Uí Rinn last Sunday finally saw them getting some points on the board. 

Having shown glimpses of what they are capable of in their previous fixtures, McCarthy believes it all came together for their visit to the Leeside. 

“We knew that we had it in us and it was just getting that performance on the day. We showed in Cork that we are there or thereabouts. The first few games obviously were tough, they were tough teams to come up against. 

“It probably stood to us going into the Cork game then. That we had those tough games over with and we were able to drive on then against Cork. I think everything that we were working on and maybe didn’t go to plan the last few games all came together for the Cork game.” 

This was a very timely boost for Waterford, given the next side on the horizon for them are All-Ireland senior champions Dublin next weekend. Having played three of their four games to date in 2024 at away venues, the Déise will be back on home soil for a touch assignment against Mick Bohan’s capital outfit. 

McCarthy is hoping this can be a significant factor as they look to guarantee their spot in the 2025 edition of Division One, albeit there are also trips to Connacht sides Galway and Mayo on their agenda in the month of March. 

“It’s a huge advantage. We had Meath at home and there was a great crowd there. We came up short against them, but you’d like to think that the crowd will help to drive us on a bit more against Dublin. Because we’ve only two home games this year, it would be great if we could get that bit of support. It does help you,” McCarthy added. 

“There’s a big sense of relief there that we have points on the table now. It’s going to be a tough game next weekend against Dublin. They always come up quite strong against us. Then going into the Galway game as well, we’d be looking to target that. 

“If you have six points, that should hopefully keep you there or thereabouts and not be worrying about relegation.” 

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