Doireann O'Sullivan aims to follow in her sister's footsteps up the Hogan Stand

Doireann O'Sullivan aims to follow in her sister's footsteps up the Hogan Stand

Galway's Nicola Ward and Doireann O'Sullivan of Cork. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

MANY younger sisters look up to and admire their older sister and in some cases dream of following in their footsteps.

On Sunday, Doireann O’Sullivan would love to follow in her sister Ciara’s footsteps as she leads Cork out in the TG4 All-Ireland ladies senior football final at Croke Park.

Ciara was captain of Cork in 2016, the last time the Rebel county won the Brendan Martin Cup, and Doireann would love nothing more than to get that opportunity on Sunday as they take on Dublin in the final, throw-in 3.30pm.

Rivalry between the two sides has grown year by year and it was only when Dublin defeated Cork in 2018 that they felt they were truly champions. They repeated that feat in the semi-final last year and now they renew rivalries once again, with the Dubs going in as favourites in the eyes of most.

But the side they fear the most is Cork and they will be well aware that to hold on to their title they will need to be at their best and even at that it may not be good enough.

Cork have been rebuilding over the last few years and now have a squad that is capable of challenging anyone. And if you are looking for someone to lead by example then look no further than Doireann.

She took a nasty knock at the end of the semi-final against Galway but confirmed she is okay for the final.

“I didn’t train on Wednesday of last week as a precaution as I had disc trouble last year and the decision was made not to risk it. It does mean I stop on long journeys to stretch and do a bit of flexing as a couple of hours in a car doesn’t suit me.

“But it’s fine and I will be good to go on Sunday and we are all looking forward to it.”

Looking back on what has been a different year Doireann was delighted to get the chance to play both club and county championships.

“The two championships seemed to have rolled into each other and we were delighted to get to play the Cork club championship and then to play at inter-county level.

“Like everyone, I was worried that the championship might not be played, but even though it’s winter football the thought of an All-Ireland final keeps you going and motivated.”

She joked: “The winter football probably suits me a bit more as the pitches are a bit slower but maybe those with a bit more pace than me don’t like it as much though.”

Galway's Nicola Ward and Doireann O'Sullivan of Cork. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane
Galway's Nicola Ward and Doireann O'Sullivan of Cork. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

The Cork v Galway semi-final was not a good day/week for the LGFA with the game switched from the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick to Parnell Park in Dublin and then very late on Croke Park, with a 30-minute earlier throw-in.

This didn’t help either side with arrangements having to be changed late on, but aside from winning, the other positive for Cork was the chance to play there before the final, with a number of players getting that chance for the first time.

“There were a lot of negatives around the game, but a huge positive for us was the chance to play there ahead of the final. To get a game there under your belt before the final is always welcome, especially for the girls that haven’t played there before.

“You can be nervous ahead of a game there as it’s normally a big occasion but this was thrown at them so they hadn’t time to think about it and just had to get on with the game. 

"All the girls playing there for the first time reacted brilliantly and it will be a help now that they are familiar with the dressing room set-up and other protocols around playing there.

“You look for the experienced players to stand up on days like this, but in fairness the younger ones did and Erika’s (O’Shea) run set us up the goal that settled us. To have the confidence to make a run like that on your first outing at Croke Park says a lot about her as a player.

“To top it off then Melissa (Duggan) scored the goal with her left leg so we’ll never hear the end of that either,” laughed Doireann.

One of the big changes this year, due to the pandemic, is the amount of time they get to spend in the dressing room. It’s now timed at 14 minutes, something that Doireann said they have timed down to seconds at this stage.

“So you arrive at the ground and there is a checklist as you enter and then there is another check as you go into the dressing room in case you pick up any stragglers along the way. 

"Then, once in, you have 14 minutes so it’s up to each team how they use that time. We generally have two dressing rooms so the starting 15 are in one and the subs are in the other.

Looking at their opponents and defending champions, Dublin, she is well aware of the task ahead.

“Dublin are the team to beat at the moment, to win three All-Irelands in-a-row is serious going. They are a formidable outfit. Noelle Healy played club (Mourneabbey) with us last year and they have quality players like her all around the field.

“They tick all the boxes really, but we will be concentrating on ourselves and see what problems we can cause them. With Croke Park being in Dublin they would have had the majority of support on the day so having no crowd might help us a bit. The roar of the crowd can be a huge lift as teams come out or when you score.

“It can make some players nervous so while we would love to have supporters there it might help calm the nerves of some for them not to be there. It also makes it easier for players to hear instructions from the sideline, something that it is almost impossible there under normal circumstances.

“I have learned over the years to cope with the nerves and the first year I played there I thought that I would be the first person to get sick on the pitch. But I cope better now and like all the squad I’m looking forward to the game at this stage."

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