“This time last year I was diagnosed with stage three Hodgkin’s Lymphoma”.
The opening words from Marianne Walsh on the sidelines of John Locke Park in Callan on Saturday, the cornerback having just helped her team to the Iverk Produce Kilkenny Junior Camogie Championship crown.
Mooncoin ran out 3-07 to 0-08 winners over Piltown in the first of three county finals down for decision this weekend.
Speaking exclusively with KCLR analyst and Camán Caint co-host Áine Fahey after the game, Marianne opened up on her journey from cancer diagnosis, to treatment, to playing and winning a county final with her club.
“The first thought that came into my head when I was sitting in that doctor’s office was ‘Jesus. Can I play camogie next year now?’ That would not even enter people’s minds at some stage but this is my life. Those girls on that panel are my family”, said Walsh, reflecting on events that unfolded a year ago this week.
“Joe rang me around Christmas time and said ‘look Marianne, we’re putting in a second team what you want to do? Do you want to be re-graded?”
“I said no. If I’m going to be re-graded, I won’t push myself to try and get on the first team. If I’m worthy or if I’m good enough to get on that first team, I’m going to push myself.”
“I actually didn’t realise how hard it would be to get back onto that first team. I trained throughout the six months I was on treatment from January to June. I only finished five months ago there on Tuesday (9 November).”
“So, and I played my first match on the second team in August and I said, look, I’m getting better. I can see improvements every week, so I’m going to keep pushing myself and see where I go. Let’s take it easy.”
“The girls on the team have been my saving grace they got me through to six months and have been keeping me going throughout the last two months. So I said in July if I got 5 minutes in that county final this year, I would be more than happy and to start and get 55 to 60 minutes today has been… it’s been emotional.”
Walsh left the game with a few minutes remaining, departing the field with Mooncoin comfortably in front and to a massive roar from the Mooncoin faithful.
“Sarah Crowley thought the match was finished when everyone started yelling.”
“The parish has been an absolute backbone to me the last six months. I would not be where I am today only for that panel of 30 young ones. They have just been absolutely amazing and the four managers and my family and friends. You know, when you’re told that you have cancer, you kind of just nearly submit to this dark hole, where I didn’t, I kept coming up. “
“Camogie saved me and it was worth all the pain and the sickness and everything all throughout the year. This moment is what I’m going to remember from this year, not being sick.”
“This is the moment, the thirteenth of November up in Callan.”
When it came to the game itself, there was nothing getting past Walsh today. Indeed, the first four balls that came in her direction, she came out with.
Ahead of the game, the instruction from Mooncoin management was simple – “just focus on what you’ve been through and put it out there on the field. You’ve been through worse.”
“And I have been through worse. I did not want to lose this match today. I was so reared up all week with the week that’s in it. It was a year ago this week where I actually found the lump, so it was a very emotional week for me altogether. Then we had this leading up, so I just I was so focused on this match and winning ’cause I wanted to make it a good week.”
“I didn’t want to remember this week as the year that my life changed, I want to remember this week as the year that our whole panel has to look forward to for next year.”
“I do [love it] and you know, I live and breathe, you know like. “
“I’ve been nowhere near as the quality or standard of most of the girls out there, but you know when you work hard and you just earn your spot on the team… There are 30 young ones there that have the rightful place on that team. So to be picked, especially only after finishing treatment five months ago, it’s a nice feeling that the people believe in me that I actually can do it so.”
You can hear Marianne’s story in full on Scoreline Extra, released on Sunday.
About 150 people are diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma in Ireland each year. Hodgkin lymphoma occurs most often in young people between the ages of 15 and 30 and those over 65, but it can occur at any age. Learn more here.