Being a new mum makes championship win even more special says Steelstown's Emma
It wasn't the Derry Senior Championship trophy that Emma Crudden was anxious to get her hands on immediately after Steelstown's magnificent victory over Ballymaguigan in Celtic Park on Sunday
That's because among the COVID restricted crowd was one very special spectator, Emma's four month old daughter, Cara, there for the first time to watch her remarkable mother lift the county's biggest prize for the second time following the 1-11 to 0-3 win.
"Having Cara with me does make it extra special, but I'm hoping this is the first of many county final days for her," smiled Emma, "We got plenty of photos of her with the trophy and all the girls after the game so they will be great memories for us all. It will be nice to look back on."
It's testimony to the dedication and commitment of the 2017 All Ireland Junior Players' Player of the Year that only weeks after Cara's arrival, she was back at training and determined to help her team-mates regain a county title Steelstown last won in 2017. She was supported by husband, Seb, a member of the Brian Ogs senior men's panel who take on Drumsurn this weekend in the quarter-finals of the men's Intermediate Championship.
"She came a few days early, so that helped," laughs Emma, "When I heard the Championship had been pushed back it all worked out in my favour because it gave me a bit more time to get back.
"I had a lot of help from my mum and dad, there were a lot of babysitting duties for them so I could get back out and back to training and I am very grateful to them. My husband, Seb, was taking the baby too for nights when the team wasn't out on the training pitch so I could get out and go for a run or do that bit extra to help me catch up.
"It was like a tag team in our house, he was out at training with the men's team one night and then I was out with the Ladies or doing a bit by myself but it is all worth it."
Emma is one of the stalwarts of the 2017 championship winning side but, having experienced the other side of championship football with heartbreaking defeats in 2018 and 2019, she says she will appreciate this one more.
"That's my second senior championship, the last was 2017 so it has been a while," explained the local dentist, "I think this one is probably better because having lost the previous two, we now know what it means to lose them, how hard that is.
"It was a great second half performance from the girls to keep Ballymaguigan out and keep the scoreboard ticking over. The goal before half-time was really important and the way it happened, it gave us a real lift but also dropped Ballymaguigan heads a bit and it was really, really important to the final outcome. Had we came out for the second half, with that breeze and only six points up it could have been a very different story.
"At half-time we said it was all about game management, keeping the ball in hands and trying to wear Ballymaguigan down and I think we did that very well. A lot of the younger girls really stepped up. Even though they are quite young, they played a very experienced game, it was very good from everybody."
Despite being in her early 30s, Emma is showing no signs of slowing down and remains a crucial cog in the Steelstown machine but she is expecting increased competition for places in the future.
"Yeah well, Cara's four months now so as soon as I can get a pair of boots on her she will be playing!" she laughed.