SHORTLY after the final whistle had blown and Cork City’s place in the final of the Women’s FAI Cup final was officially confirmed, the players gathered in the centre circle.
In the midst of those celebrations following their semi-final win against Treaty United, there was a brief silence as the substitutes and coaching staff joined the group.
It was very brief as goalkeeper Maria O’Sullivan’s roar of “WE’RE OFF TO TALLAGHT!” quickly sparked more jubilant scenes.
“That video is quite funny now,” O’Sullivan admits. “It was just the relief, that just showed in that moment.
“It came out of nowhere, I was just delighted for everyone involved. That definitely came from the heart, it was pure joy.
“I don’t think it has sunk in yet, the buzz is still there.
“It’s really exciting that we are in the final, it’s a small bit of relief as well that all the hard work is paying off, the hard work from the coaches and all the players is finally paying off.
“At the start of the season, our goal was to improve on last year, to finish in the top four — which we did — and to have a good run in the cup.
“So far it has worked out.”
The former Lakewood Athletic shot-stopper officially signed for City as a dual player — representing both the U17s and seniors — in July 2018, eight months after the club claimed its first and only FAI Cup success.
O’Sullivan was there as a fan when the Leesiders lifted the trophy aloft at the Aviva Stadium and soon dreamed about playing her part in a similar triumph one day.
“I was only about 15 or 16 at the time. I was thinking someday I would love to be signing for Cork City and eventually get to a final,” she remembers.
“But I never thought it would come this soon. On that day I was just buzzing for them watching them win it, and we have talked about it since.
“They have told us how they felt, the buzz, and just how good it felt winning the FAI Cup. It made me want it more.”
That dream is edging closer and closer to becoming a reality but if City are to make that last step and claim the silverware, they are going to have to overcome a formidable Peamount United side on the December 12.
If they do then it will be O’Sullivan’s job as captain to lead her teammates up the steps at Tallaght Stadium to receive the cup having taken over the armband from Ciara McNamara before the season commenced.
It will also be the keeper’s final act for the club — for the time being at least — as she is set to take up a soccer scholarship in New York in January.
“When I was named captain lifting the cup did come into my mind straight away,” admits the 19-year old.
“The dream of getting to the FAI Cup final and then lifting the trophy I mean, there’s no feeling like that.
“I’m looking forward to it now, we will put it up to Peamount and see if we can get that cup.
“Ciara has been great since I took over the captaincy. She is still helping, she is still a leader both on and off the pitch and I have learned a lot from seeing what she was like as captain.
“I’m still learning but it’s great to have that responsibility and to be that player to encourage everyone and to get the best out of everyone.
“It was definitely a shock but it meant a lot. I always dreamed of playing for Cork City but to be named captain…it’s just the icing on the cake.
“It was just an unreal feeling that the coaches had that trust in me and that the players have that trust in me to do that role.
“I’ve committed to a school in New York a few months ago and I was supposed to go over in August but with everything going on with Covid, there were complications with my visa.
“I thought it was a better decision for me to stay here, not go over until January so I could have the full season with Cork City. Everything seems to be working out well now, I couldn’t have asked for a better last game before I head over.”
But before that showpiece occasion, City still have a couple of important games to play in the Women’s National League.
O’Sullivan missed the Cup final dress rehearsal with Peamount last weekend through suspension as she was shown a straight red in the previous league game away to Shelbourne.
“I did mistime the tackle but I had no intent to take her down,” she insists.
“It was quite harsh, it was definitely a foul, it was definitely a yellow but at least it’s only the one game I missed, it could have been a lot worse.
“As much as I wanted to play against Peamount, it was probably the best outcome really.
“It definitely crossed my mind that I could miss the semi-final, the management wasn’t sure of the rule either so they had to double-check and confirm.
“We had to wait and see how many matches I got. There was a fear there so I was delighted in the end to miss just the one league game because it could have been worse.”
The rules meant she could play her part in the win against Treaty, something she is grateful for. It also allowed the keeper to lead the memorable celebrations afterward.
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