THE move from forward to wing-back has enhanced Laura O’Mahony’s chances of playing a major role in the Cork senior team’s league and championship campaigns.
A confident person by nature, O’Mahony was first introduced to an experienced Cork senior dressing room over 12 months ago.
Back then, the 19-year-old was best known for her swashbuckling attacking style in the colours of west Cork club O’Donovan Rossa.
Fast forward one year, and the UCC PE and Mathematics student has forced her way on to the Cork senior team — but not in the role that she may have envisaged.
“I was always a forward from when I first started playing football for O’Donovan Rossa about the age of 10,” O’Mahony told The Echo.
“Now I’ve been switched to wing-back on the Cork team and I prefer it. That’s because there is not as much pressure on me to shoot all the time or take the ball into contact like I used to do further up the pitch.
“Ashling (Hutchings) and Melissa (Duggan) have been playing on the half-back line a couple of years before me.
“They have been really good in helping me settle into my new wing-back role and have been giving me lots of good advice.”
It has been as transformative period off the pitch as well as on it for O’Mahony. Previously, making the long journey from Skibbereen to Cork City for inter-county training sessions proved a tiring commute, on top of sitting a Leaving Cert.
Now that the West Cork senior is studying in UCC and living in the city, and the ability to prepare for training sessions and matches without spending long hours in a car is reaping dividends.
“There have been very big changes for me over last 12 months,”she said.
“My commuting time for training sessions has changed from an hour and a half when living in Skibbereen to just 10 minutes since I moved to the city. This has made a massive difference when it comes to preparing my food and eating properly at the right times before training as well.
“As for college, I don’t mind missing out on all the nights out with my friends because I am playing for the Cork seniors and making an impact in the league. Playing well in the league gives me a chance to make the championship team.
“I am enjoying it a lot more than last year. The Leaving Cert took up so much of my time and I was very caught up with it as well as my football. I couldn’t buy-in as much as I wanted, but this year I have much more time to around my college schedule.
“I can go to the gym whenever I’m told to and get to training sessions without any hassle. Things are going well at the moment because I’m getting to play, which also helps.
“This is what I planned for. I remember telling you last year that my main aim was to play in the (senior) championship for Cork. Another of my dreams was to play against Dublin in Croke Park, and I’ve done that already this month.”
Cork’s recent defeat of All-Ireland champions Dublin elevated Ephie Fitzgerald’s squad into first place in the Lidl National League Division 1. Three wins out of three is a positive start but O’Mahony knows that tougher tests lie ahead, beginning with Mayo next weekend.
“Playing in Croke Park for the first time against Dublin was a brilliant experience and one where I didn’t feel any pressure as such, but just wanted to prove a point after last year’ semi-final,” she said.
“Ephie (Fitzgerald) and Paddy (O’Shea) and the backroom team take our preparation very seriously. That’s had an effect on me in that I now take my own gym work a lot more seriously since coming into the squad. I want to be in contention for a place on the half-back line this year and am doing everything I can to be in with a chance (of selection).”
O’Mahony’s dedication and professionalism is giving the O’Donovan Rossa player every chance of making her presence felt on this year’s Cork senior football team.
It is only February, but if the West Cork senior can maintain her early-season form, then there is no reason she cannot also feature at the business end of the championship.