WHILE the 2017 Women’s FAI Cup ended perfectly for Cork City’s Ciara McNamara, the build-up was far from ideal.
“I actually ended up going to the hospital a few days before that final with headaches,” recalls the defender, who recovered to help the club lift the silverware for the first time in its history.
“I never suffered from headaches, I was never really sick either but I ended up going for a CT scan like three days before the final.
“The doctor just said I needed a break from the phone, the laptop, and everything. I said I will rest after the final.”
The extra workload during her final year in college took its toll but three years on and working a new job with CDYS Mallow, McNamara is determined to enjoy the build-up this time around.
“I didn’t get to enjoy the build-up last time,” she admits.
“Now I’m more excited than nervous. I can step back and relax a small bit to enjoy it rather than being bogged down with college work.
“I still have work to do but it’s not as hectic and I know what to expect. My employers now are very supportive, they’re very good to me.
“Once we got to the final, I told them I might need the Friday off and they said it was no problem so they are very accommodating.”
The Leesiders were arguably second-favourites going into that fixture but there is no doubting they will be underdogs when they take on Peamount United in Tallaght Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
United have retained the Women’s National League title having won 11 of their 12 games this season, including two 3-0 triumph’s against City.
McNamara will also be tasked with trying to stop attackers Aine O’Gorman and Eleanor Ryan-Doyle, who have notched 14 and 10 goals this season respectively.
“We have had a good season but we’re going into the cup final and anything can happen,” she insists.
“We have done it before. It’s 11 vs 11. Yeah they’re league champions, and for a very good reason so we know what’s ahead of us and we will be ready for it. I think we are going to enjoy it more than anything else.
“I think being the underdogs will suit us a bit more but it’s going to be a huge test, there is no doubt about that.
“I have played against Aine and Ellie for the last number of years so I would know their game a bit more, I know what to expect.
“It’s going to be a huge challenge especially with Tallaght being a very wide pitch. They’re going to try and work it out and get in behind us but the back five we have had for the last few weeks - myself, Dan, Nat, Zara, and Maria - we have all developed a good strong partnership.
“It’s the first time in a long time that we have had a settled back five which has been a huge help so hopefully, we can bring that into Saturday and do what we do best.
“They’re under more pressure than we are. They’ve lost the final the last two years, they’re league champions, they’re on to do a double but hopefully, we can cause an upset and bring the trophy back home to Cork.
“Winning it in 2017 was brilliant but it’s time to create new memories.”
The centre-back is also hoping to create new memories in front of at least one or two family members as she becomes the latest player to call on the Government to grant them permission to attend the showpiece occasion.
“It would be great if some of them could go,” enthused McNamara.
“My mom would do the shop at half-time at home matches and my dad helps out with fundraising.
“Personally, it would be nice to have them there because they have been there ever since I joined City and they follow us all over the country.
“But for the rest of the girls, it would be nice for them to have some family there cheering them on, even just one or two family members.
“Surely in Tallaght with a capacity of 8,000, surely be to god they can allow a few people in, socially distancing with masks on.
“It would be great, especially for the young players that haven’t been there before. We hope and we dream something can be arranged.”