Spirit of 2014 final burns strong among new players for Cork

Spirit of 2014 final burns strong among new players for Cork
Emma Spillane of Cork in action against Yvonne McMonagle of Donegal. Picture: David Maher/Sportsfile

Mary White

Ladies Football

CORK'S infamous All-Ireland comeback in 2014 appears to have inspired an entire generation of ladies footballers if Bantry's Emma Spillane is anything to go by.

The 18-year-old Leaving Cert student had been to numerous finals as a young teenager, but the comeback of 2014 - with Cork down 10 points with 16 minutes to go against Dublin - moved something within.

"I've been to every All-Ireland nearly that Cork have played in Croke Park, and I was in the stands that day and it was unreal to see them come back. 

"It just showed what a great team they were, and even though I played underage all the way up with Cork, I think that was the moment I really knew I wanted to be up there with them," said Spillane on Sunday following Cork's one-point victory over Donegal in the Lidl Division 1 National League final.

"It's unreal to be playing alongside so many great players. I was so used to watching them the whole way up, and then you're playing with them, and it's just great to be given the chance."

Having won her first piece of silverware as a senior intercounty player, the Leaving Cert student was taken aback by one thing during her first league campaign under coach Ephie Fitzgerald.

"It's the intensity the players bring to everything. Even the first league game we played against Kerry in Mallow in January, it was just so intense and there was no messing around. They took everything so serious and that's what I remember most really about starting out. Now in saying that they can celebrate and have the craic after too, but the intensity and the pace at which they trained was what struck me the most."

Spillane was one of seven league final debutantes for Cork in Parnell Park, with the likes of Melissa Duggan of Dohenys, Niamh Cotter of Beara, Jess O'Shea of Inch Rovers, Libby Coppinger of St Colum's and Eimear Scally of Eire Og all getting the nod. And, for coach Fitzgerald it was a pleasure to see his players blossom on the national stage.

"This was important for me in a sense because we had to introduce so many new players this season. It was always a given that the older players would pull you over the line, but this is the first trophy now for the younger brigade and hopefully this win will give them confidence.

"I hope it is a new era starting, but if anything, we'll be competitive and that's what you want. I don't know what the average age of the team was on Sunday, but they were very, very young.

"Our forwards did very well and Doireann (O'Sullivan) probably shouldn't have played carrying an injury, but you see the effort and commitment she puts in. We've a lovely forward line, but I was more impressed with our defending. I thought really when it was put up to them, they stood up and were all counted, and that's what you expect.

"Marie Ambrose and Roinsin Phelan weren't happy with themselves at half-time because they've such high standards of themselves, and they put in some immense blocks, and you just have to credit them all.

"I thought our girls read the game well. Eimear Meaney had a great second-half, and you could go through them all. When we went two or three points down in the second-half, Finn kicked some great scores. All in all, what can I say? I'm just thrilled for them.

"I've no doubt we could come across Donegal in the championship again, they're so good. Ulster is a minefield obviously but they're a fine side. We'll step up our training now for championship, but I thought the fitness levels of both teams was phenomenal, and it was very hot.

"When you're on the sideline you're watching the game differently, but I'm sure it was a great spectacle, and the scoreline says a lot about the game too. 

"There was no blanket defending as such, and it was just end-to-end stuff and we're delighted with it.

"We've three titles to defend this year and we've done the first one, but we have to prepare now for the Munster Championship against Waterford on June 4," added Fitzgerald.

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