2014 senior final goal heroine Eimear Scally will captain the Cork minors in Monday’s All-Ireland showdown with Galway at Semple Stadium (live on TG4 at 3pm). Here she gives her first in-depth interview to Mary White
SINCE the age of eight, Eimear Scally has witnessed all of Cork’s nine senior All-Ireland final wins. She’s even played in one. But it wasn’t the awe factor of Croke Park, nor seeing the likes of Juliet Murphy or Angela Walsh lift the Brendan Martin Cup that inspired her to be a future star, it was the players’ hurt she witnessed first-hand in the aftermath of the 2010 All-Ireland quarter-final loss to Tyrone.
“When I saw how upset they were after the game in Banagher, I just wanted to get to a point someday where something meant as much to me as it did to them,” she says sipping on a Costa Coffee cappuccino.
Funkily dressed, Scally is wiser and more in touch with reality than most 18-year-olds. She’s on her way to work in one of her father Tom’s businesses, and the experience of dealing with the public has given her a veneer of confidence that other teenagers don’t usually become accustomed to until later in life. There’s a charisma about ‘Scally’, and it’s obvious she enjoys more intellectual chats than you’d usually associate with Leaving Cert students.
A STAR IS BORN
Her arrival on the senior intercounty scene came in January 2014 when selector Shane Ronayne informed her at the Cork Ladies Football dinner dance that a trial would be headed her way. Her older sister, Elaine, was on the team too, and within minutes of her first session with Eamonn Ryan, and alongside the likes of Valerie Mulcahy, Bríd Stack and Deirdre O’Reilly, she realised they were players just like her, and she could mix it up with the best of them.
Her cameo in the 2014 senior All-Ireland final then was when she was thrown into the spotlight, coming off the bench and scoring a goal to drag Cork from a 10-point deficit against Dublin to help them win their ninth senior All-Ireland title in 10 years. Scally had been informed she was to go in at wing-forward and to send Nollaig Cleary into the corner. But, she knew what she could do and naively asked management to put her in the corner.
‘I’ll get a goal if ye put me in there,’ she said. And, Scally did, what Scally said.
A self-confessed tomboy, the former Munster Young Player of the Year was primed to play in Croker given her front garden battles with her siblings — Richard (25), Aoife (24) and Elaine (21). The youngest, she had to conspire ways to wriggle around those physically stronger than her to score into their makeshift goals, but goals were always her thing.
“I remember dad telling the gang to take it easy on me because I’d have gone in crying if I didn’t get a goal,” she laughs, “but whether it was rugby or soccer, or football, I just loved being in the front garden playing.”
Football however was her forte, and it was always in the blood. Her mother Mary stems from footballing territory in Clonakilty, while her father Tom is from Killbeggan in Westmeath, where they live for football. Dessie Dolan and Denis Glennon are heroes, while her older sister Aoife’s playing career with Cork underage inspired Eimear to progress beyond the club gates. But Scally’s intercounty playing days nearly didn’t come to fruition when she was diagnosed with Scheuermann’s disease as a teenager.
LIVING WITH JUVENILE ARTHRITIS
“The year I was doing my Junior Cert I found out I’d a form of juvenile arthritis and I was out for about nine months. I suppose it started as far back as when I was 10 or 11 when I’d to get physio because all the side of my spine was just knotted. It got to the stage where it was very sore and I wasn’t able to sleep, but then I got pulse signal therapy with physio Colette Minihane and thankfully it hasn’t bothered me since,” confides the Coláiste Choilm, Ballincollig, graduate.
On Monday Scally will captain Cork in the minor All-Ireland final in Semple Stadium against Galway, who are vying for three in-a-row, and she’ll do so with her father, Tom, a selector on the sideline.
They are one of four sibling/parents involved and despite initial reservations as to how her teammates would welcome that concept, Eimear says the situation has worked out perfectly, for all involved.
“I thought it was going to be tough and I was thinking ‘Oh what if the girls don’t like him now will they be awkward with me?’, but they’ve taken a shining to him, as they have done all the management… alongside the likes of Teresa Meaney, Fr Liam Kelleher and Marian Crowley, it’s a really nice bunch.
“I suppose dad is always uplifting at training. It’s just the way he speaks, his voice, it portrays a good environment in training that everyone is doing the best they can, and I think the players appreciate that.”
She speaks fondly of playing minor and to cap it off with a win over Galway would nearly be as good as hitting a winning goal in an All-Ireland final in Croker.
“We were gutted to lose to them in last year’s final. At that age group, we’ve lost the U14 All-Ireland semi-final, the U16 final and minor final to them, and you’d naturally have that bit of hatred towards them because you’re sick of losing to them.
“But everyone’s a leader on the pitch. The likes of Emma Spillane at corner-back coming up from Bantry has another year at minor and she’s fantastic. From full-back Eimear Meany and the other corner-back Aisling O’Sullivan, every one is a leader.
“Being captain is an added honour but I would never feel like I’d need to be the one to speak up on the pitch, everyone is doing it. Eirne Ní Dheasmhunaigh does her talking on the pitch in midfield and Beatrice Casey would go through you for a shortcut, and it’s just a special time playing with your own age group because we’ve come up along together.”
Former Cork senior footballer John Cleary is in his first year in charge as coach, but Scally is familiar with him from club football, while she’s good friends with Cleary’s daughters, Laura and Emma, and her admiration for Cleary’s style is immense.
“I love him!” she smiles. “He’s a real gentleman. John just has the ability to get the best out of everyone. He knows how to deal with certain players. He knows who to give out to and who to encourage, and we’re indebted to him and the management team for all they’ve done for us.”
July 31, 2015