Joan Duffy (left) receives her special 25-year commemoration medal from LFGA President Marie Hickey at Croke Park on All-Ireland finals day. (Pic: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile)
On a day where the Louth ladies fell short in their quest for silverware at Croke Park, Cooley’s Joan Duffy was honoured at the recent LGFA All-Ireland finals day.
The youngest in the famous McCarragher clan, brothers Tony, Niall, Pearce and Colm having backboned all-conquering peninsula teams for years, she was invited to HQ as part of the Laois team that reached the All-Ireland final of 25 years ago, where Kerry put an end to their charge.
This, however, begs an obvious question. How did she end up in playing for the O’Moore County?
“I was in college in Magee in Derry and we had to do a year’s placement out of the college,” Duffy told The Democrat, “I was placed in Irish Sugar in Carlow, so really that’s how it all started.”
“I was down there for just over a year and I was playing with a club called Killeshin in Laois. They asked me to go with the Laois team, who were always in the senior grade.”
Duffy has a Leinster Championship medal from her spell with the Midlanders. However, with her placement spell having expired before the kick-off of the All-Ireland series, that was the end of Joan’s involvement, meaning she missed out on a crack at the ultimate prize.
She did mildly explore the possibility of continuing her involvement via a commute, though logistics swiftly put paid to the notion.
Still, to have been remembered as a part of that year’s outfit in such a way was well-received, even if it did take her some time to acclimatise.
“When they won the Leinster Championship, like I couldn’t come from Derry to Stradbally in Laois for training. I wouldn’t have been up to it, trying to study, etc.
“But I was always there on the panel and sure they remembered me on their 25th anniversary. It was nice of them to give me the call and it was lovely, we had a great day.
“It took me a while because I wouldn’t have seen them in 25 years and some of them were 16 and 17 at that time, and you know when you go back…
“It took me a while to adjust, but when I heard names and I saw a picture from back them it all came back to me.”
She attended with her husband, Robert, while her children were outside, in the stands, watching the finals unfold and paying a keen interest to the first of the triple header which saw Louth take on Limerick - a match Joan was unable to view much of due to the ongoing engagement.
Her career with Cooley was equally as dramatic. It yielded more than a handful of medals as Kickhams repeatedly won every honour the Louth County Board could supply, and more. In 1998, she was part of the Green and Gold’s county senior and Leinster and All-Ireland junior title wins, while, a year later, they cleaned up again, only to lose the national intermediate decider.
But perhaps that club defeat was made up for in the form of an All-Ireland intermediate medal with Louth, six years after her involvement with Laois.
As Joe Carroll told so well in his piece on Louth’s feats of the late 90s in our All-Ireland junior final preview pullout a fortnight ago, Lyn Savage was the Louth No. 1. However, when the teenager was unavailable for the ‘99 intermediate one-off against Roscommon, due to her sister’s wedding in Mexico, the Reds were ‘keeperless’. This led to Alo McGrath approaching and convincing Joan to stand between the posts in Athy as Louth made it two All-Ireland wins on the trot.
Success continued to come in hefty doses out Cooley way. Indeed, they reached the 2001 Leinster senior final, a match where controversy rained as Kickhams claimed a wonderful win over Ballyboden St. Enda’s, only to be forced into a replay which they lost.
But, to have claimed club and county provincial and All-Ireland medals takes some doing. Her recent honour was thus a just touch.
Well done, Joan.