HANNAH LOONEY is enjoying a new lease of life in the Cork senior football setup.
The Aghada footballer and Killeagh camogie star has played a pivotal role in helping Ephie Fitzgerald’s side claim victory in all three of their Lidl National League Division 1 games to date.
Inside a youthful dressing room, the four-time camogie All-Ireland winner is regarded as an experienced player and one hoping to add a second All-Ireland football medal to her trophy cabinet.
Balancing dual inter-county commitments as well as making as many club appearances as possible is a far from easy task. Yet, Looney is thankful for her clubs and inter-county managers help in allowing the Aghada/Killeagh player flourish in both codes.
“I have learnt a lot over the last couple of years and the most important thing being you have to put yourself first,” Looney told The Echo.
“There is no point trying to please everyone as you are the one who ends up suffering at the end of the day. You have to sit down and make the best decisions for you.
“I don’t envy the younger players in the same (dual) situation as I have more experience and built up relationships with all my coaches over time. I know when I need to train hard and when I need to rest. I love playing both camogie and football and want to continue to do so.
“What really helps me is the fact there is such good communication and trust between Ephie Fitzgerald and Paudie Murray. The same goes for our strength and conditioning coaches who understand there are times when there is no point in pushing us too hard.”
Cork’s footballers sit proudly atop the Division 1 standings having overcome Westmeath at home plus Tipperary and Dublin on the road. Mayo are next up in Cloughduv but despite their perfect start Hannah Looney believes the Rebels have plenty room for improvement.
“I think we can take a lot of positives from our opening three games but obviously there is still a lot to learn and things we need to focus on."
“We just need to keep looking at ourselves and concentrating on the little things to keep improving. It is still very early in the year and you won’t get everything right.
“In all three games, we were put under pressure during the last 15 minutes and didn’t put the scores on the board that we would have liked. On the positive side, we are winning games and it is a big panel, so everyone is getting game time which is important. Cork are in a good place but nothing to be getting carried away with.”
Unsurprisingly, playing at Croke Park and getting one over the Dubs ranks as one of the highlights of the opening months of Looney’s season. Defeating the All-Ireland champions on their home pitch represents a positive sign as Cork continue their build-up to the Munster and All-Ireland championships.
“It was a bit strange to be running out on to Croke Park in February but a really good buzz all the same."
“Playing on pitches in perfect condition like Páirc Uí Chaoimh and Croke Park so early in the season is amazing. It is testament to how far ladies football has come along in the last couple of years.
“The main thing for us was to get as many of our younger squad members experience of playing there (Croke Park). The crowd wasn’t huge, but it was an important step for those Cork players all the same.
“Being honest, you can’t read too much in to defeating Dublin as it is only February. We know they have a lot of players to come back and will be much stronger later in the year.
“The main positive for us was that we managed to soak up all the pressure Dublin put on us during the last 15 minutes. There were times we weren’t able to get the ball outside our own 45’ so it is really encouraging that we found a way to win. It would have been disappointing if we had drawn or even lost that game.
“Looking back on previous Dublin games, there were times we weren’t able to withstand their pressure whenever they had a purple patch. So, it was a nice boost to get the win up there, but we have to move on now and prepare for the next challenge.”