Munster SFC Final
Mourneabbey (Cork) V The Banner (Clare)
CLARE’S Eva O’Dea didn’t know it at the time, but the popping sensation in her knee 13 minutes into the All-Ireland intermediate semi-final would end her season.
This year was the 19-year-old corner-back’s first season playing intercounty football and as the medics carried her off the turf at the Gaelic Grounds, the Kilfenora woman refused to go to hospital.
Instead, she sat in the stand, her knee swelling, watching her older sister Niamh (23) hit the winning point to send Clare into the All-Ireland final against Kildare.
The extent of the damage to Eva’s knee wasn’t confirmed until the Monday before the All-Ireland final, and as O’Dea learned she would be sidelined for a year – her mother Joan by her side – the tears flowed.
A text message to her sister confirming the prognosis followed and tears flowed for Niamh too.
And although it’s Niamh who’s been in the spotlight this season for her impressive attacking displays for Clare, and being nominated for the 2016 Intermediate Players’ Player of the Year, Eva doesn’t live in her sister’s shadow.
They’re a close knit family, with their father JJ coaching The Banner in today’s Munster SFC final against Mourneabbey (Mallow, 3pm), while their brothers Jack and Cian are members of the Clare senior football team. All four of the five O’Dea siblings are attending UL too, while their eldest sister Caoimhe has set up home for now in Whistler, Canada.
Sleep has been restless for the youngest O’Dea having just undergone surgery at the Santry Sports Clinic last week under Mihai Vioreanu – who’s represented Romania at two rugby World Cups. In just a matter of weeks she’s missed out on an All-Ireland final, a county final and now a Munster final, but the absenteeism is what’s driving her on.
“I’ve missed so much already, I just want to get back as fast as I can. It’s heartbreaking but what can you do?
“I was on the sideline doing water for the girls in the county final, but I don’t know what my situation will be now given the surgery, but I’ll still be there,” said the UL Environmental Scientist and 2015 Lynch Cup-winning captain.
The Banner – lined with eight of the Clare intermediate team (Niamh and Eva O’Dea, Louise Henchy, Emma O’Driscoll, Niamh Keane, Grainne Nolan, Aoife Keane and county captain Laurie Ryan) – will take on the reigning Munster champions Mourneabbey, who are bidding for three in-a-row in a repeat of the 2014 final.
They too are backboned by a team who ran out onto Croke Park this September, with six players who retained the Brendan Martin Cup for Cork – sisters Roisin, Ciara, Doireann and Maebh O’Sullivan, Eimear Meaney and current Mourneabbey captain Brid O’Sullivan.
O’Dea hasn’t seen Mourneabbey play but she feels this could very well be the Ennis-based club’s best shot given their long season with Clare.
“I think we’re fitter because Clare went on longer this year and I think the intercounty training is standing to us. We’ve been training since January up until now, so it counts for a lot. Mourneabbey beat us in the Munster final in 2013 by a point so we know we’re there or
“We won Munster B title three years in-a-row, before we beat St Val’s of Cork in the A final, and after that we lost to Donaghamoyne of Monaghan in the All-Ireland semi-final but they were way better than us on the day.
“But, we’re the kind of team that just go out and play, and we’re left off which is nice. It’s more enjoyable that way.”
November 5, 2016