West Cork ladies footballers are ready for the toughest game of the year

West Cork ladies footballers are ready for the toughest game of the year
West Cork's Aine O'Sullivan looks to pass against Mourneabbey's Niamh O'Sullivan. Picture: Gavin Browne

BEARA’S Áine Terry O’Sullivan is looking forward to another ladies football county final appearance in the colours of West Cork.

The Cork inter-county forward’s season was hampered by injury at the beginning of the campaign. Slowly but surely, the 2018 Munster Ladies Footballer of the Year regained her fitness and went on to play a central role in guiding West Cork to a second final appearance in as many years.

O’Sullivan was at her brilliant best in West Cork’s penultimate round defeat of Éire Óg, scoring 2-7 during her side’s 3-13 to 1-7 triumph in Cloughduv.

“From my own point of view, I am feeling pretty good at the moment and just glad to be back to full fitness,” she told the Echo. 

“We had a good win over Éire Óg in the semi-finals last week so hopefully we can carry the positives from that performance into the county final. There was a bit of break between our last championship round-robin game and the semi-final so that should help with our match sharpness.

She is only too aware of the formidable challenge facing West Cork in this weekend’s decider. Standing in the way of the division’s title aspirations are reigning Cork, Munster and All-Ireland champions Mourneabbey.

“We have faced them a good few times now over the last three or four years and know exactly how good a team they (Mourneabbey) are,” the Beara star said. “They have an extremely strong setup with plenty of inter-county talent and are going to give us our toughest game of the year.

“Everyone in our squad is looking forward to the challenge even though we know we are up against it. We are capable of beating anyone on our day so there should be no reason for nerves and we’ll be going all out for the win.”

West Cork’s squad has undergone a transformation over the past two years with an influx of youth helping guide the division back to another county final.

“The new players that have come in have made a real difference,” O’Sullivan admitted.

“We are well used to each other at this stage. We also added a few Bantry Blues girls this past year including Emma Spillane who played really well for us in the semi-final win over Éire Óg. The squad is really strong so our only problem is we don’t get a chance to meet up often enough to train. Having said that, the majority of us have been around long enough at this stage to know what is expected in terms of preparation so we will be ready.”

It would be an historic moment for a division that many clubs didn’t want competing in the Cork LGFA SFC to claim a first ever senior title. Unsurprisingly, Mourneabbey will start as favourites but that means the pressure is off a West Cork squad with nothing to lose and everything to gain.

The two sides (albeit each missing a host of first team regulars) met earlier in the season at a rain-lashed Clonakilty. In a championship group game that had to be restarted on a separate floodlit pitch, West Cork emerged with a hard-earned victory but it is unlikely that result will count for much this weekend.

“I think we put a fair amount of pressure on ourselves whenever we represent West Cork,” Áine Terry O’Sullivan admitted.

“Mourneabbey are Cork, Munster and All-Ireland champions. It is going to take a monumental effort to get all three of those trophies back to their club so there will be pressure on them.

“They are obviously looking forward to that challenge and claiming six in a row county titles would be special.

“For us, we are delighted to have an opportunity to be back in another county final with the chance of winning the trophy. It is getting harder and harder for rural clubs around West Cork to keep going and the opportunity to win a senior county medal just doesn’t come around that often.

“Because clubs have been objecting to us take part in the championship, we don’t know how long more that opportunity will be available to us.

“Everyone within the squad realises how much it would mean to our families, supporters and especially our management team who have put in a massive effort over the years.”

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