Shanise Fitzsimons and her Cavan teammates had a season to remember in 2022.
Having only returned to the intercounty fold three years ago, the Breffni county have performed extremely well since.
The highlight of the year came in April when despite being written off by many, they defeated Wexford in the Division Three league final to earn promotion to Division Two for the first time.
Fitzsimons, who has now been nominated for a 2022 PwC Camogie Soaring Star award, scored a crucial goal that day in what was a game that will live long in the memory for her.
— Cavan Camogie (@CamogieCavan) October 13, 2022
“I’ve been playing camogie forever and that's definitely the best game and the best feeling after a game,” she says.
“I think it was just because we were written off before we even went into the game by everybody and to do what we done was amazing.
“It was such a boost for Cavan camogie and for us as well as players, it was great.”
Cavan is far from a camogie stronghold but for the Denn clubwoman she was always surrounded and immersed by the sport.
Camogie a family affair for Shanise Fitzsimons
In her first year playing at adult level for her club, she joined her older sister Rebecca and mother Martina in winning the Junior County title, a game that marked Martina’s retirement.
It was Martina that got Rebecca, Shanise, and their younger sister Hannah into the game.
“We would have been down with her when she was training all the time at a young age,” Fitzsimons recalls.
“We were brought up into it and there was no other choice really, we even used to go down the country to watch other games and see other people.”
Fitzsimons is also a talented footballer, captaining her club side to the County Intermediate title recently. She played for Cavan on numerous occasions including for one season as a dual player when the camogie team returned to competitive action.
Playing both at inter-county level would prove quite the challenge and Fitzsimons eventually decided to lean towards the small ball.
“It's very hard to balance both when you have two games in one weekend and then you're playing club beside that, you just have to look after the body.
“We were only starting with camogie, building a team and we saw the potential that was there,” she explains.
“I don't really regret it.”
Shanise Fitzsimons believes her game improved in Maynooth
The talented corner-forward has also made a significant impact to the sport while studying in Maynooth University, captaining the Ashbourne Cup team in her final year.
“In my first year I was actually on a scholarship for football, which was kind of hard because with the scholarship I nearly had to prefer the football over the camogie.”
“I did manage to do both and in our first year we won the Purcell Cup in camogie, which was great.
“It was my final year this year, and we won the Ashbourne Shield.”
Fitzsimons believes her game improved significantly during her college years thanks to the players she was surrounded by.
“I was playing with the best against the best and If I could go back and do it all again I would, because it's really where I did excel and started coming through as a player.
“You're getting the best training off of coaches from other counties who have trained these high-level players.
“I was playing with the likes of Eve O’Brien (Dublin), Linda Bolger (Wexford) and Cheyenne O'Brien (Meath),” she adds.
“These girls are top class camogie players and to play with them and win with them was just unbelievable.
“When I went back to club and county after that, I found myself that my touch was so much better, everything is so much faster playing with those kind of girls.”
It is exciting times for Cavan camogie with Shanise Fitzsimons believing that the reestablishment of the team back in 2019 was the “best thing to ever happen” for the game in the county.
“The players were always there, there was always a want.
“I would have finished up at minors and then there was nothing for me to go on at for a few years even on the minor team we wanted to have that senior opportunity.”
“I'm not sure if it was no management or no resources, I don't know to be honest.”
Fitzsimons feels that the standard in the club championship has improved dramatically in recent years with four senior teams, four intermediate teams, and a number of junior teams now competing.
It is hoped that the raise in standard will help the county team to push on in the coming years but for now preparation for next season is about to begin.
“We're focusing all of this winter on strength and conditioning training to get up to the physicality of Division Two, it's a huge, huge step up from Division Three.
“We would have played in challenge games against some of the Division Two teams and we would have competed well with them.”
The sides aim is to stay up and compete before beginning their championship campaign with high hopes.
“We’ve had good success in three years to be fair but hopefully next year we can push on the whole way and get up to Intermediate.
Additional reporting by PJ Browne