AGHADA and Cork senior footballer Sarah Leahy is expecting the toughest of tests in her county’s TG4 All-Ireland Championship opener against Kerry.
The highly regarded defender is recovering from a shoulder injury and in a race against time to return to the Cork inter-county fold.
Clearly itching to get back, Leahy believes feeling no ill-effects during the early weeks of rehabilitation represents a positive sign ahead of the Rebel’s 2020 inter-county campaign.
“My rehab is going well, and I’ve been out for three weeks now,” Leahy told the Echo.
“I have been going to the Cork training sessions and watching which has been tough. Hopefully, I should be back in the next few weeks, I’m not sure exactly when, it all depends on how well my rehab goes.
“Look, it’s a bit disappointing to be missing out right now but hopefully I’ll be back soon.”
The Aghada player enjoyed All-Ireland success at minor level under current Castlehaven manager John Cleary. Naturally, the step up from minor to senior was a daunting one but Leahy believes she has finally settled into competing at the highest level.
“Honestly, I found it very tough at the start,” the Aghada player admitted.
“It was my first year up at senior level and my Leaving Cert year as well. I had watched a lot of the older girls playing for Cork when I was younger. So, that was a bit daunting at the start.
“I felt more and more comfortable as time went on once I got to know everyone in the squad. Training at senior level is definitely a big step up, fitness-wise and even more so, strength-wise.
“Ephie (Fitzgerald) is a brilliant manager. Paddy (O’Shea) and the rest of the coaches have been very good to me as well. John Cleary was brilliant for me as well coming up through the ranks so I’ve been lucky with the managers I’ve had.
“It was so important to have my team-mate Hannah Looney there when I first joined the senior panel. It was the likes of Hannah, Orla Finn and Orlagh Farmer that helped me settle.
“I would travel to training with Orlagh and they definitely helped calm me down as I’d be nervous before every session. So, yes, it was a big step up, but I’m used to it now, thank God.”
Cork face Kerry in their TG4 All-Ireland Championship opener on Saturday. The Kingdom will have had the benefit of a championship game against Cavan under their belts before that Munster clash.
Leahy has faced the Kingdom on numerous occasions in the past number of years and recognises their improvement ahead of what should be a cracking encounter.
“Kerry was always our strongest rivalry at underage level,” the Cork senior said.
“Playing Munster schools football, I would have gotten to know many of the Kerry girls. A lot of the players I would have faced are on their senior panel now.
“Cork has been training really well over the last number of weeks, so we are happy enough with our progress going into such a big game. We know it is going to be a tough battle against Kerry though.
“Every year at underage level, from U16 to minor, the Munster final was always the biggest game for us. Hopefully, we will come out the right side of the result next Saturday.”
Leahy’s recovery from a shoulder injury may come too late for Cork’s two opening All-Ireland championship games. Yet, what’s certain is that the tough-tackling defender will be a vital member of Aghada and Cork’s senior setups in the coming years.