A SPLIT season and some clarity around the inter-county championship were two wishes for Cork ladies football star Doireann O’Sullivan.
Doireann was speaking as part of the GPA’s Return to Play event to mark the first season where all senior inter-county players are part of the one-player association.
“It’s great that we have clarity on the championship at this stage. With things opening, girls want to start making plans. I and my sister, Ciara, are playing inter-county and club football.
“But our other two sisters are playing club football so for both sides of it, club and inter-county players it’s great to have it sorted.
“I think there is an 82% push for the split season to continue going forward and from my point of view, I do find it hard to balance both. I know managers and trainers do their best to accommodate players but it’s hard and I think we are only going to see a spike in injuries if we don’t go down the split road season.
“It’s the obvious thing to do and I really do hope we get it from now on because from the club players’ viewpoint they are training for a few months for one match and then could be waiting another two months for another match.”
Cork start their league campaign against Tipperary, followed by games against Dublin and Waterford, before a potential semi-final and final.
“We are looking forward to the league format this year and I like the idea of having a condensed league. For anyone that’s like me, getting a small bit older, it’s easier on the body to prepare for the three matches instead of the eight or so we used to have.
“I’m really looking forward to that format and then hope to get the chance to play in the semi-final and possibly a final.
“I think it’s a really good way to do it and everyone is going to want to get a chance to be on those teams for the three games and it makes it more competitive in the squad. I suppose on the flip side you do have fewer games to experiment in and we are a team in transition. Even though I hate saying that, it’s the reality for us. We have lost a lot of players.”
Looking back over last season and the timing of games, with the All-Ireland final on the Sunday before Christmas, Doireannn said: “Obviously losing the final to Dublin again was a hard pillow to swallow. We thought we had prepared exceptionally well.
“We had a really good first-half, had a poor second-half, to be honest, so Christmas wasn’t that enjoyable. The previous two years I was celebrating club All-Ireland success with Mourneabbey in contrast to last year.
“We took a long hard look at ourselves over Christmas and did a lot of video analysis over Zoom. Our selectors and management team did a brilliant job given the circumstances.”
One player who will not be lining out with Cork this year is Saoirse Noonan, who has opted to play soccer this year and Doireann fully backed her decision. “I think it’s easier to balance camogie and football. We have a lot of dual players but it is different trying to balance soccer and football given they are two completely different associations.
“So Saoirse was struggling with fixture clashes and she was being dragged into different directions. Saoirse has made the decision to focus on soccer and give it 100% instead of getting distracted by other things. We are really sad to see Saoirse step away this year, but I think she is 22 or so and I have no doubt she will be back in the Cork jersey in the years to come.”
Even though they are working a bit closer than they used to, one issue that does cause problems is the dual issue with ladies football and camogie games clashing at times, which causes problems for both camps and in particular for the players involved.
“I suppose what we are looking for is that it wouldn’t come to that stage (players needing to choose one or the other) and you are hoping it would be resolved before it comes to that.
“It needs the LGFA and the Camogie Association to compromise and we are hoping that they have discussions beforehand and they preempt it rather than reacting to it.
“We have four girls on both panels and it just isn’t fair on them or dual players in any county. Those girls deserve to have fixtures that suit them, it doesn’t have to be weeks between championship games.
“All they are asking for, which I think is very reasonable, is a minimum of a day between games or hopefully a week. The intensity levels now mean it’s impossible to play two games in one day, something the likes of Briege Corkery and Rena Buckley did.
“But it would be huge progression now and a huge step forward for women’s sport if they sat down in advance and resolve these issues before the season starts,” concluded Doireann.