A Kilkenny woman who won a county junior title last week – just five months after finishing cancer treatment – has said that camogie and the support of her rural community kept her going through the dark days.

Marianne Walsh was corner-back on the Mooncoin team that beat Piltown by 3-7 to 0-8 in Callan last Saturday.

An oncology nurse in Waterford, she was diagnosed with stage three Hodgkin’s Lymphoma a year ago. Marianne whose father, Michael, has leased out the family dairy farm, told Agriland that winning the county title after a year of sickness, left her feeling overwhelmed.

“I have been playing camogie since I was eight and this is my biggest achievement. It is Mooncoin’s first junior title since 1988,” she said.

Marianne was in work one morning when she detected a lump that a colleague thought might be just a cyst.

“I went to give blood that evening but I couldn’t because my haemoglobin levels were too low. My colleague, Karena, started asking me a few questions and I had reasons for all the symptoms apart from one about an itch on my leg,” she said.

“My GP sent me for an x-ray and it showed that I had a mass on my chest. I knew then it was cancer.”

The first thing that came into her head, she recalled, was whether she would be able to continue playing camogie.

Cancer treatment

“I got the diagnosis on December 9, but I didn’t start chemotherapy until January 12, because I was attending The Rotunda Hospital in Dublin for fertility treatment.”

As an oncology nurse, Marianne knew the pathway and was organised in getting everything in place from a central line for chemotherapy to a wig. However, she wasn’t prepared for the severity of the side effects.

“I experienced terrible sickness straight away. I hadn’t thought I would be that sick that quickly but camogie gave me something to focus on. It made me forget about things like when my next scan was taking place.

“When our manager, Joe, told me around Christmas that a second team was being put together, I said I didn’t want to be regraded as I wouldn’t push myself to be on the first team.

“When I was told I was starting on the first team in the league championship, it was overwhelming.

“My family, friends, boyfriend, colleagues and clubmates drove me on. Everyone was telling me to keep going and those little bits of recognition and encouragement put all the pain and sickness behind me. When the whistle blew in the county final, I forgot all the bad things.

“The men won their county final as well last weekend, so it was the best weekend ever.”