FOR A team to stand up and be counted, it first takes individuals, and that’s exactly what Geraldine O’Flynn did on Saturday.
In winning her ninth Division 1 National League title, the St Mary’s star was asked to do a job by Cork coach Eamonn Ryan in slotting into full-back for the first time in her 11-year senior career.
Her mission was to contain Galway full-forward Tracey Leonard, who hit eight points the first day out in Parnell Park, but in Saturday’s replay in Portlaoise, O’Flynn kept her to just two points from play.
“Eamonn just gave me a job to do and you try do it to the best of your ability. He said before the game that the team evolves around the role that you’re given, and the job you have to do. Sometimes you’ve to sacrifice your own game for the sake of the team. I did it Saturday, it’ll be someone else the next day, but that’s the type of team we are,” she said.
Aghada’s Roisín Phelan marked Leonard the first day and, despite what her eight-point tally suggests, Phelan didn’t do too much wrong. In O’Moore Park, she too got on with business, and when Marie Hoey was through on goal, the UCC student pressurised her so much, that the ball blasted inches over the bar.
O’Flynn was the first to praise the likes of Phelan, Bríd Stack, Roisín O’Sullivan and Vera Foley around her in helping her contain Leonard, but she also had praise for others up the pitch.
“Rena Buckley was outstanding in midfield and she deservedly kicked the winner in the end. She seemed to be in the right place at the right time all day long, while Aisling Hutchings is another player who really came good, with three great points in the first-half.
“It was totally a different game to the last day though. I thought we played way more open football. Galway probably played the way we did in the first game in that they had a lot of players back this time out. It’s how the game evolves though really, because that might not necessarily be the way you set out, but the game just takes a natural course as it goes on,” said O’Flynn.
“There was a real feel of championship about it, and I thought we played some lovely football. We were saying coming up on the bus that it was like playing an All-Ireland semi-final and it’s only May, but that’s actually how fast it was out there on both days.
“It’s a great feeling because it feels like we’ve won a championship game and it feels like we’re a step closely to the All-Ireland. But we’re under no illusions either at the same time. It was the league, it was a great win, two super games to have got under our belts, but we’re not get carried away with anything,” she added.
In the aftermath of Cork second league three in a row, cautious Rebel fans were already issuing warning shots of how Saturday’s loss for Galway will drive them on. And, they’re probably right. Kevin Reidy’s side were excellent throughout the campaign, and in the end it was just a point that separated them and one of the best ladies football teams the sport has ever seen.
Like in 2004, when Cork lost their first division 1 final to Mayo, it hurt. Cork went on to train extremely hard for championship, won their first Munster senior title, but failed to overcome Mayo again in the All-Ireland quarter-final. They came back stronger 12 months down the line, but Galway are capable of coming back just two months on from now. They’re that good.
The league overall was a reasonable one for Cork. Nothing too fancy. But, it was in the last two games, when it came to the crunch that they stood up again.
The likes of Phelan, Foley, Roisín O’Sullivan, Hutchings and Orla Finn all had good campaigns, while full-forward Valerie Mulcahy was once again Cork’s top scorer.
Marie Ambrose at corner-back really began to bed-in later in the campaign, while Rhona Ní Bhuachalla and Eimear Scally did super in all of their cameos.
The workrate of Briege Corkery and Rena Buckley was simply phenomenal, and in their own way have moulded a vital micro unit in the side. Both are equally able to dictate play. Both can equally attack and score, and both constantly track back and forth at a frightening rate.
Throw in too captain Ciara O’Sullivan’s ability to lead, and one begins to think that Cork’s chances are just as good as they ever were for a 10th All-Ireland title in September, even with the departure of a number of high-profile players. But remember, Deirdre O’Reilly has yet to return to the camp full-time.
Rest and recovery will be vital in the coming week off, but if Cork can maintain and even build on the the level of championship fitness they currently possess, they have a great shot at winning their 11th Munster title, but Kerry will be waiting in the long grass in seven weeks’ time.
May 19, 2015