SHE is one of the most experienced players in the national league. She has won trophies at her previous two clubs, but winning with her home-town club, Cork City, would mean the world to Katie McCarthy, and that may happen at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday, in the women’s FAI Cup final, against UCD Waves.
McCarthy says there will be very little between the sides.
“UCD, for me, move the ball better than any other team. Their passing is crisp and quick,” said McCarthy.
“So far, they have had the better of games between us, but the gap hasn’t been that big. They have some key players injured, but still have a lot of experienced, senior-capped players in their team and won their first trophy recently, so their tails will be up.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge. We have good players and we should feel that we are capable of beating anyone.
“The semi-final, against Wexford, was unquestionably our performance of the season. They fairly controlled the game in the first-half, but had very little attacking threat.
“In the second-half, we started playing through them and got runners in behind. We wobbled for about 10 minutes, after going one up, but, after getting the second, they never really threatened and, in the end, it could have been more than just 3-0.
“We were still killing time, before I scored the third goal, but we were able to enjoy the last few minutes of injury time, after that. I suppose it shows how well we’ve done in the competition, seeing as we’ve knocked out the top two in the league.”
The 27-year-old UCC student has enjoyed a busy 2017 and to top it off by playing in the Aviva will be one of the highlights for her.
“It’s incredible to be playing in the Aviva.
“I suppose, it’s the next best thing to playing a final in the Cross”, laughs McCarthy.
“Being serious, it’s a brilliant opportunity and you want to leave the game knowing you played your best.
“It’s good to see the game will be televised again, this season, and it continues to be a great opportunity for the women’s game to advertise itself on a national level. It’s only right the women’s final gets the same recognition as the men’s final does.
“For some, to play in the Aviva was an incentive to win the semi-final.
“I can’t say it was going through my head, during the game, but it was definitely something we were aware of before the game.
“It’s the first final the club have been in and, hopefully, we can now kick on, set higher standards, and demand more.
“I was with Wexford, when they made and won their first final. There were really good structures put in place, and that team really kicked on and became the dominant force in the WNL. However, other clubs have made finals in recent years and have dropped away since.
“It’s important we don’t rest on our laurels, and that we build better structures and demand higher standards.” The Ballinhassig woman hopes her experience will enable her to play to her ability on Sunday and she hopes she can pass this composure onto the rest of her teammates, so that they won’t allow the occasion get the better of them.
“I’ve always been in the WNL, since the start.
“I was with Cork the first season we did well and it was very enjoyable.
“I played up in UCD and Wexford Youths, for a season each. I did really well for both, finished top-scorer for the clubs and won some silverware, but I always wanted to go back to Cork.
“I got some great experience working with good players and staff, which I was able to bring back to Cork with me. I missed two of the toughest seasons with Cork and it’s a huge credit to those girls, who were around then and are still around now.
“They are really strong characters and they are vital parts of the squad and, above anyone, I’m happiest for them.
“Our board have stuck with us through thick and thin, and I’m delighted for them, especially for our chairperson, Chris O’Mahony, who has been totally selfless in developing the women’s game in Cork.
“It’s difficult, playing in the national league, maintaining standards, and the organisation of the league is always a challenge, but I still want to play at the highest level in this country. I’m lucky, I have good off-the-field support, but it would be great to see more support and backing given to the league, so it is easier for players to play in it and to reach their potential.
“That is why it is great to have the final in the Aviva and televised. It shows the incentive for women to stay involved.”
To win a cup final with Cork has been the ultimate goal for McCarthy, and although she knows it won’t be an easy task, she believes Cork have what it takes.
“At the final whistle of the semi-final, it was a bit bizarre, to say the least. However, I’m quite reserved, so I think I was a bit calmer than others.
“I was obviously really happy, but it was a semi-final and winning trophies with Cork is my goal and I doubt I’ll be as calm if we win the final.
“We, as a team, have prepared really well and, hopefully, now, we can get the job done on Sunday”.
Recently engaged to Cork City academy coach, Ronan Collins, McCarthy has put all wedding plans on hold to fulfil her dreams of playing football at the highest level, and for her to win on Sunday it will certainly be worth the sacrifices that the couple have made, because of the game they both love.
“We’re both so laid back about the wedding. I don’t even know when it will happen yet.
“Both of us are really involved in football, so we’ll find some space in an off-season, at some stage, to fit in a wedding.
“At the moment, with summer and winter seasons, it keeps clashing and neither of us are willing to miss out on football.
“I’ve also been eyeing a trip to Australia to visit my sister, Shauna, so it might have to be one or the other”, jokes McCarthy.
“However, my main focus, at the moment, is Sunday’s final.
“It’s a day we are all really looking forward to.”