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Munster Ladies Football Senior Championship Final – Kerry 2-13 Cork 2-4
Kerry defeated Cork by 2-13 to 2-4 in the Munster Ladies Football Senior Championship Final on Saturday July 11th at in Mallow.
Focus on Cork’s Ciara O’Sullivan
By Jackie Cahill
DESPITE all of the huge success that Cork’s ladies footballers have enjoyed over the past decade, it’s the one that got away that’s referenced the most.
Banagher in county Offaly played host to a shock of seismic proportions in 2010, when Tyrone stunned Cork in the TG4 All-Ireland senior quarter-final.
It was a dreadful afternoon for Cork who lost Bríd Stack and Aisling Barrett to the sin-bin, and Ciara O’Sullivan and Geraldine O’Flynn to cruciate knee ligament injuries.
O’Sullivan, Cork’s current captain, worked her way back to full fitness but in the 2012 All-Ireland semi-final against Monaghan, she damaged the same knee again.
Remarkably, she lined out in the final against Kerry and played until the 57th minute before being replaced by Annie Walsh.
A six-week gap between semi-final and final allowed O’Sullivan to strengthen the knee with gym work to a strong enough level where it would hold tough.
After another Brendan Martin Cup win, she then went for surgery.
“In some ways, 2010 was nearly better,” the Mourneabbey player reflected.
“I wasn’t missing anything, we were knocked out and I was back in time for the knockout stages of the championship the following year.
“But it was sickening to do it after three minutes and Geraldine’s was five or six minutes later.
“My sister (Roisin) had done hers the year before so I had a fair idea that it could have been that (cruciate) alright.
“In 2012, I thought there was no way I had done it again. I didn’t have a fraction of the pain from the first time.
“I played on for a bit but was more upset when I got the result of that MRI.
“The final was still to come in a few weeks and that was the most upset I’ve been over the course of the two of them.
“But then Galway drew with Kilkenny in the All-Ireland hurling final and our match got pushed back. That gave me extra time I the gym and made a big difference.
“Thankfully I played the final and got the operation then afterwards.”
When it happened first in 2010, O’Sullivan and O’Flynn helped each other along virtually every step of the way along the road to recovery.
“I rehabbed with Geraldine,” O’Sullivan says. “Not that I’d have wished Geraldine to tear hers but it was good that we were both coming back at the same time, jogging at the same time, twisting at the same time.
“It was good to have someone. I’d still go to training and feel part of it so it wasn’t a big deal when I came back because I’d been there all the time
“But fitness-wise, it was a big deal trying to get back to the pace of it again.
“Touch wood, the knee is ok now but you’d be more conscious of it as well. We do a lot of work with Cork building it up before matches and training, hopping on one leg and that kind of thing. That’s because of the amount of us that it’s happened to.”
Tomorrow evening in Mallow, Cork start as red-hot favourites to retain their TG4 Munster championship crown against Kerry, a team who have presented them with some problems in recent years.
The Leesiders will also start as the team to beat in the race for All-Ireland glory in September.
If they do manage to retain the Brendan Martin Cup, Cork will have made it ten All-Ireland titles in eleven seasons.
They rode their luck at Croke Park last year, O’Sullivan admits, as they came from ten points down in the final 20 minutes to pip Dublin.
With typical honesty, O’Sullivan reveals how she believed the game was gone before one of the greatest sporting comebacks of all time unfolded.
She explains: “With 20 minutes to go, we weren’t thinking about making a big comeback.
“We were just thinking about making it a little bit less embarrassing.
“It’s grand to say now that we knew we would come back, with hindsight, but at the time, we were in Croke Park on the biggest day of Ladies football and borderline disgracing ourselves.
“All of our plans had gone out the window and we just wanted to bring it back to some sort of respectable scoreline.
“As time went on and we got back in it and made it a bit more respectable, then we could think about having a go alright – but not with 20 minutes to go.
“I don’t think anybody, realistically, was thinking at ten points down that we could get it back. It was about bringing down the score and see where we went after that.”