By Damian Dolan
Listen to Fiona Morrissey and there’s no lack of clarity in her thought process as to why she’s been a permanent part of the London Ladies set-up since 2014. To win an All-Ireland at Croke Park.
It’s that dream which keeps her coming back year after year.
Not that Morrissey is a stranger to winning All-Irelands, having won 12 in camogie at various levels, including a senior club championship with her home club in Co Limerick, Granagh/Ballingarry, in 2003.
In the final, which was played in Mullingar, Granagh/Ballingarry beat Davitts of Galway by 1-10 to 1-6. Morrissey, who lined out at corner forward, set up her side’s “vital goal” ten minutes into the second half when her “fine pass” teed up teammate Meadbh Nash.
Twelve All-Irelands, but none won in Croke Park and none for football.
Transferring to Tir Chonaill Gaels and Tara Camogie in June of 2012, Morrissey made her London debut the same year. She spent the following summer in America playing for Denver Gaels, but has been ever present for the Exiles ever since.
Arriving in London in 2012, she describes herself back then as a “camogie player”, but admits to having since “changed her sport” in a bid to try and achieve that All-Ireland-Croke Park goal.
“I want to win an All-Ireland in Croke Park,” Morrissey told the Irish World. “It’s there, it is there for us. We just need to put our heads down for the next few months and just do it.
“We’ve been talking about it for long enough, so hopefully the next couple of weeks and months go well for us. We’re committing because it’s there to win – and hopefully it will be.
“I’ve come to an agreement with myself that if I’m going to win an All-Ireland it’s going to be in football. I’ve focussed on my football game the last few years, trying to improve.”
Morrissey admits she “never really took it [football] that seriously” back in Limerick, but she’s certainly taking it more seriously now.
“Growing up, camogie was always the motivator for me, because of the club and the surroundings I come from at home. If I’m going to achieve anything in football, it will be here in London,” she said.
“Football was always there, and I probably preferred playing football, but was never really given the opportunity to focus on it.”
And she’s enjoyed success. Only last month she helped Tir Chonaill Gaels to junior championship success at McGovern Park. Morrissey scoring 2-1 in the Gaels’ win over Dulwich Harps.
With ladies club championship finals only returning to Croke Park since 2010, Morrissey’s only previous ‘run out’ at Croke Park was with Tara Camogie at the World Games in 2016.
The same year, Morrissey was part of the London side which lost out to Antrim in the junior championship semi-finals, and then which last year suffered an agonising extra-time defeat to Fermanagh at the same stage.
“It [Fermanagh] was devastating, but that’s life. That’s football. The only positive we could take from it was that they went on to win junior,” she said.
“We put it up to them and we could have won it. That’s a motivator for a lot of the girls who are back again this year. We know we’re good enough to be there.”
Morrissey is now one of London Ladies’ longest-serving players, along with Tara’s Anne Murphy – the sole survivor from the Exiles’ All Ireland junior success of 2008 with Hannah Noonan expecting a baby and unavailable.
Noonan, though, is still on the scene as part of Paddy Bowles’ management team, along with Claire Towey. They both provide a further link to that Croker triumph of 2008.
Morrissey’s quest for that allusive football All-Ireland recommences this weekend in Kilkenny.
Although the Cats were firmly put to the sword by London 12 months ago, Morrissey concedes it will be a “big ask” with the Exiles going into a game which will be their first competitive outing of 2018.
She’s confident, though, that London can give the championship “a good crack” this year, and with fewer than ten survivors from last year’s panel still on board, the past is also somewhat “irrelevant” for Morrissey.
What’s more relevant is London’s need to hit the ground running in Kilkenny on Sunday and get some “momentum going”, with no national league campaign under their belts, just as they had to against Carlow last year at McGovern Park.
London flew out of the blocks against Carlow, but when Barrowsiders came back at them the Exiles were found wanting.
“We didn’t have the momentum to come back at them. We hadn’t experienced losing together as a team and having pick up the pieces to build up the pieces. That comes from playing together,” said Morrissey.
“But there’s a good vibe in the camp…..there’s huge competition for places down through every position. We’re not depending on anyone. The flow of the team is good.”
Don’t rule out that first football All-Ireland winner’s medal just yet.