Cork senior football star Melissa Duggan recently had the proud honour of receiving All-Star and Munster Ladies Football of the Year awards following a plethora of outstanding displays for the senior inter-county team and her beloved club team the Dohenys. The West Cork football heroine also captained the Munster senior footballers to provincial championship glory after they defeated Connacht in the final. John Bohane catches up with the ace footballer who is widely regarded as one of the best footballers in the country.
Melissa is still coming to terms with picking up an All-Star award at the recent annual awards banquet, which was held in the CityWest Hotel. The Cork senior footballer was recognised after producing a series of brilliant individual performances for the Rebelettes. The football star was thrilled to capture a coveted All-Star. “It was such a fantastic honour to win an All-Star award, not only for me, but for my family and for my local club, Dohenys, as well. They have all supported me so much throughout the last year and to celebrate with this award is just incredible. It was a very proud moment for my family. A lot of my family were present on the night, which made it extra special. My aunts, uncles, cousins and many more were at the All-Stars night. I think there was 12 of us there overall, so we had a great night. My family love going to the games and following my progress, so when my name was called out it was an extra special moment. They have been so supportive of me ever since I started playing football with Cork. They have helped with everything from driving me to matches and training sessions to doing my weekly food shop. I am so grateful for all the support I have received from my family.”
Melissa is always thrilled to represent her beloved local GAA Club, The Dohenys, on the highest stage of them all, representing the Cork senior ladies footballers and winning coveted All-Star and Munster awards. The modest defensive ace loves playing for the Dohenys junior ladies footballers. Melissa played an integral role in helping their junior ladies team win the county title last year following so much anquish in recent seasons. Melissa is confident the club has a very bright future. “I am delighted to represent my local football club on the national stage. Every year as I get older it means so much more to play for both my club and county. The club has grown so much in the past three or four years and it is fantastic to see so many young girls training in the evenings. This year was the first year that we had a minor team, so it is great that girls are continuing to play football whilst at secondary school. Words cannot describe what it means to win a county final with your friends and family from home. We lost three successive county finals, so we were determined this year that we were going to bring the cup home to Dunmanway. We had great support at the final. It is such a big boost for the club, as it was the first time they had won a county final in 40 years. It is fantastic to see the club growing in recent years and I am delighted that I can help out with training and inspire the younger girls in the town to play football. I think the club has such a good future ahead as we have very strong U14, U16 and minor teams coming up the ranks. The junior football team are really looking ahead to this season and the challenge of playing in the Junior A grade. Donoughmore winning the All-Ireland title a few weeks ago is a huge inspirational story for us juniors, as we were playing them the last two years in the league, so we are going to use them as our motivation going forward. We have such a good bunch of girls in the junior team. I hope we can have more success next year as they deserve it with all their hard work and commitment throughout the years.”
Melissa also enjoyed success with the Cork senior ladies last season. She played a key role on the Cork team who defeated Galway in the national league final. Clonakilty club player Martina O’Brien had the huge honour of captaining Cork to national league glory. Melissa was delighted to play her part in their success. “It was great to win the league final in May, as we didn’t have the greatest of starts in the league campaign. We trialled a lot of new girls during the league matches, which was great for the panel, as it strengthened the squad and the management had very difficult decisions picking the team. It really gave the likes of the Kiely twins, Saoirse Noonan, Laura O’Mahony and Clare O’Shea the chance to experience what it is like to play senior as the jump up from minor can be very tough. These girls will be a huge boost to us in 2020, as the games they played in 2019 will stand to them so much. Towards the end of this year the panel had become very competitive and there were many positions up for grabs. This is very encouraging for us going forward.”
The Cork senior footballers ultimately succumbed to Dublin in the All-Ireland championship semi-final. Melissa is confident the future is good for the Rebelettes moving forward. “The defeat to Dublin was hard to take as we were there or there abouts with them. We had beaten them twice in the league earlier so we were ready for the challenge of the semi-final. They are such an experienced team and they will be the team to beat again this year. Over the last few months we had the chance to reflect on the year and the championship semi-final defeat. We are already regrouping for this season. The league and championship layouts are changing for the 2020 season, so it means that we will need to get a good start in both campaigns.”
Experienced coach and Nemo Rangers club man Ephie Fitzgerald recently committed to another two years managing the Cork senior ladies footballers. Melissa has loved working with the coach and is looking forward to achieving more success in the foreseeable future. “I am delighted that Ephie is back. He has been my only manager that I have had since I joined the panel in 2017, so I have huge time and respect for him. It is great to have familiarity in the team this year, so we can kick off where we left off without any disruptions. He is bringing in a few different people into his backroom team, so it will nice to have a mix of new and old faces. I am really looking forward to the start of this season. Hopefully we can build on our success from last year.”