Offaly captain Róisín Ennis says that training opposite Carla Rowe and Emma Duggan at DCU Dóchas Éireann has changed her mindset entirely this year.
Ennis will be in county action today when her native Offaly take on Limerick at St Brendan's Park in Birr in the Lidl National Football League Division 4 final. But just a few weeks ago she was lining out for DCU Dóchas Éireann in the Yoplait O'Connor Cup.
It was a steep learning curve for the 20-year-old defender but she knows it could be huge for her career. "I marked Carla in one of the trainings and you can’t really get much of a better test than that, on a class forward," said Ennis.
"That is the only way you are going to get better, marking the best of the best and trying to deal with them so when you come up against players as good as them you can get a handle on them. I would have been marking Emma Morrissey and Emma Duggan as well.
"I’m very, very lucky to be playing at such a high standard at such a young age and to be involved with players that have much more experience than me. Even leadership, the communication they have and how hard they work for each other, it motivates you to go on and want to make yourself better.
"That is where everyone wants to be, winning All-Stars and All-Irelands, that is what you want to be when you are a player and a young girl looking up. That is the stage you want to get to.
"You would be taking pages out of their books and mimicking stuff they are doing so you can get to the top as well."
Offaly reached a league semi-final last year but were dumped out by Louth and only missed relegation from the TG4 All-Ireland Intermediate Championship after a 5-9 to 4-7 victory over Fermanagh in the qualifier. They turned to one of their youngest but brightest talents for captaincy this year and Ennis has taken the opportunity in her stride, with her first piece of silverware potentially only 60 minutes away.
"I actually couldn’t believe it when the lads told me. I was not expecting it at all," said Ennis. "I have been in there for a couple of years. I have been working hard but I do all my talking on the pitch. I am quiet outside of training and matches, I was a bit shocked but they saw me as a leader more than a talker.
"My first emotion was not fear but nerves and then as it progressed on I got excited, it was unbelievable. There is a bit of pressure and expectation on you, you don’t want to let anyone down, management or players.
"We have come a long way from the team we were last year. We have worked so hard in pre-season, our fitness is way up, and our work rate is way up. We are a different team."