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Love For Kilmacud Crokes Still Strong In Ireland International Deirdre Duke

Love For Kilmacud Crokes Still Strong In Ireland International Deirdre Duke
By PJ Browne Updated

For good reasons, there was a crowd celebrating in the Kilmacud Crokes clubhouse on Wednesday night. That evening, their senior women's football team defeated St Sylvesters to qualify for the Dublin final, while at St Margarets GAA grounds on the northside, a Crokes team won the Dublin Junior B Championship.

On the Crokes side which won that junior title was a familiar name, though one better known as a hockey international, and Olympian.

"You always have to celebrate the wins. It's not every day you win a junior b county championship," Deirdre Duke tells Balls.

"I would have played with Crokes all the way up from U10s through to minor. Then about seven years ago, I went back to play for a season with the seniors.

"I played a league game last year. I get a bit of slagging because I dip my toe in every couple of years. They always see me coming back.

"At the end of the hockey season last year, I was just dying to get back playing football. One of my first loves is Gaelic football. I played the tail end of the league season last year.

"I had a chat with Paddy O'Donoghue, the senior coach, and he said 'Once the hockey finishes up next summer, would you be interested in coming back?' We finished up there at the end of August with the international season. I headed to training the following week."

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21 August 2022; Deirdre Duke of Ireland, left, is congratulated by team-mates after scoring their side's fifth goal during the Women's 2022 EuroHockey Championship Qualifier match between Ireland and Turkey at Sport Ireland Campus in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

On the hockey scene, it was a busy summer for Duke. There was the World Cup, jointly hosted by Spain and the Netherlands, where Ireland finished 11th, and then the qualifiers for next year's EuroHockey Championship in Germany.

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'Kilmacud Crokes has been a big part of my life'

"Football is so different to the hockey," says Duke.

"Sometimes change is as good as a rest. I just have great fun with it, and it doesn't feel like a slog.

"I would have played with quite a few of the girls. Aoife Gallagher, who is now coaching the team, I would have played U10s with her all the way up to minor. Kate Williams is another girl on the team that I would have started with, would have played down in the paddock in Crokes when we were eight or nine.

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"Crokes has been a big part of my life, maybe in the background over the last few years. It's where I started playing sport. I feel a big draw to the club, I feel very much part of it."

Duke joined the panel for the final game of the championship's group stage, a victory against Na Fianna. They had already lost to Ballyboughal and beaten Naomh Olaf at that point. In the semi-final, they defeated Erin's Isle 6-9 to 1-11. On Wednesday, Duke scored 1-1, and was named Player of the Match in a 1-11 to 1-4 win against St Brendans.

"It should have been Emma Kane, I want to put that on the record! They must have got our numbers mixed up," she jokes about the accolade given to her after the game.

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"I was getting a terrible slagging last night in the club about my tackle technique. That's probably why they keep me higher up the pitch.

"It seems last night that every time I tried to make a tackle, I got a tick, and every time I didn't, I got shouted at by someone for not doing enough! It's definitely something that I need to refine.

"It's quite different to hockey, the way that you move. Hockey is quite quick, and the pitch is smaller, and we do much smaller rotations. We'd do six or eight minutes in an international game, and then get a rest.

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"I actually struggled a bit with the size of the pitch. You're trying to support every attack, and help out in defence. I realised that I just don't have the legs for that!

"It was difficult, but the girls are great. I get a lot of slack for coming too far out when I'm playing number 14. I'm a work in progress."

24 July 2021; Deirdre Duke of Ireland in action against Quanita Bobbs of South Africa during the Women's Pool A Group Stage match between Ireland and South Africa at the Oi Hockey Stadium during the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Duke is due to link up with the Ireland hockey squad for training in October ahead of a tournament in December. Between now and then, the trainee solicitor will be busy.

She hopes to be back playing with her hockey club Old Alex soon, and there's also the possibility of joining the Crokes senior panel ahead of the Dublin final against Thomas Davis later this month.

"My firm has been really supportive has been really supportive of my hockey career, and given me a lot of leeway to be able to pursue both," she says.

"The most difficult thing is the recovery. You play a match last night, and you're back in the office, and you don't have the luxury of time to get a pool session in - your time is more restricted when you're working full-time.

"I would love to be back next year [playing football with Crokes]. I think I might be joining the panel of the seniors over the next couple of weeks. There are a few of us that might warm the bench.

"It will be great to even to train with the girls, and see if I can manage it at that level. They're on such a good run at the minute. It would be great to be part of that squad if I get the chance."

Quiz: Match These 12 Inter-County Footballers To Their Clubs


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