Nov 2014 Winner – Emma Smyth
A SERIES of sparkling displays, but more importantly a string of incredible scoring returns from Emma Smyth, were the driving force behind Dromore St Dympna’s march to Tyrone and Ulster glory this autumn.
The teenage scoring sensation proved that she was one of the very best in the business with some remarkable personal tallies, such as 1-14 in the Ulster Club first round and nine points in the provincial decider, making her a very worthy recipient of the Ulster Herald Sports Personality of the Month for November.
Now that the dust has had a little bit of time to settle on Dromore’s exploits over recent months, Emma is in no doubt about how good it has all been.
“It’s all been incredible, from start to finish. It’s just been unbelievable.”
There are certain key moments in every successful Championship campaign, points in time that make you know that things are going in your favour. Some of Dromore’s toughest tests came in the Tyrone Junior Championship, and it is remarkable to think that they ended up as Ulster champions considering that not fielding an adult team at all this season was a very real prospect just a matter of months ago.
“I think it was probably when we beat Trillick and Drumragh in the Championship, once we got over those I suppose we got a lot of confidence that we could keep pushing on and do more. We were behind at half-time in a lot of the games we played this year, but thankfully we were always able to turn it around in the second half when it mattered most.
“At the start of the year there were a lot of girls who intended not to come back out again, but thankfully we convinced them to give it a go, and it all worked out well for us. The older players like Orla O’Neill, Joanne Donnelly and girls like that brought massive experience to our team, and they were key players for us.”
With the Tyrone title in the bag, the next step for Dromore was a return to Ulster Club action for the first time since they claimed Intermediate honours back in 2000. There has of course been an almost complete overhaul of playing personnel since then, but the new batch certainly enjoyed their first foray onto the provincial stage.
“We had Orla O’Neill there who was involved in that 2000 run, so she was able to tell us what it was all about and what we could expect, because Ulster Club football definitely is different from what you would be used to within Tyrone. It’s new teams, new players up against you, and there is such an intensity and an atmosphere to the games.
“Not knowing about teams is good. We went down to Lurgan for the first game and we hammered them, so I suppose that showed us that we weren’t too far away. We were able to go out and play our own game without ever worrying too much about the opposition because we knew nothing about them.”
One key reason for that ‘hammering’ was the 1-14 personal haul to which Smyth helped herself. A win over Down champions Loughinisland followed, 7-8 to 3-11 with Smyth again on the scoring trail with 1-5 to her credit as Dromore booked their passage to an Ulster Final showdown against Donegal’s Carndonagh.
Once again, they fell behind, but rallied in the second half to claim provincial glory, with Smyth again the star of the show with nine crucial points.
“I know that from a personal point of view, there was a mix of nerves and confidence before that final. I don’t know what was wrong with us in the first half, but we went down by eight or nine points by the time we got to half-time.
“I honestly couldn’t tell you what was said at half-time by the players or by the management, but it worked anyway and thankfully we were able to turn it around and get the result.”
Emma, a first year Environmental Health student at the University of Jordanstown, forged a fantastic relationship up front with Orla O’Neill.
The pair may be at opposite ends of their playing careers, but the deadly duo proved to be a two-pronged major pain in the backside of opposition defences all season long, and it is clear that it’s a relationship which extends beyond just being playing colleagues.
“I suppose you could call her a big sister sort of a figure. She’s a great player to play alongside, she’s been there and done all that at the highest level, and she’s a great one to keep you right. She might be a bit older than me, but I still couldn’t beat her in a race!”
In the coming weeks she will link up with the Tyrone senior ladies squad as Smyth looks to take the next step in her footballing career, the Ulster Young Player of the Year continuing her rapid rise to prominence. Then it’ll be back to club duties where she hopes Dromore can continue their winning ways.
“We have played a lot of games this year, and it definitely has brought us on. There should hopefully be another couple of girls back in next year, and we would be looking forward to giving the Intermediate grade a real good rattle.”
Of course it is what happens on the field which matters more than anything to Smyth, but personnel accolades have certainly not been in short supply for the talented Dromore attacker in recent weeks.
As well as the Ulster Herald Sports Personality of the Month award, she has also been revealed as one of the three nominees for the Gaelic Life Ulster Ladies Club Player of the Year awards, with a glitzy awards bash in Belfast’s Hilton Hotel to come next month. For now, she is just enjoying riding on the crest of a wave, and is hoping that the good times continue to come.
“It’s a nice way to finish off the year. I didn’t expect any of it, not at all, but I definitely won’t complain because you have to enjoy these things when they happen.”
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