'I've seen the drive and sacrifice needed to play for Cork'

John O'Shea knows how tough to is to play at the top, after watching his sister Erika win an All-Star last season
'I've seen the drive and sacrifice needed to play for Cork'

Cork's Erika O'Shea is tackled by Waterford's Maria Delahunty during the TG4 All-Ireland quarter-final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

A MUSKERRY Junior C Football Championship winners medal with Macroom is as good as it has gotten, or at this stage most likely ever will, playing on the Gaelic Games front.

I had dreams as a young child of being a Cork City FC player or a Cork GAA star. But I knew from an early stage, working as a sports journalist would be as close as I would get to a high level.

I could be tempted into a return with the Macroom Junior Cs, but I most likely won’t be playing at a level much higher than that at this stage!

My parents and two of my sisters also have played very little or no GAA at all.

That is apart from the youngest member of the family, Erika O’Shea, who is playing Ladies Football for Cork and in 2021 was named on the TG4 Ladies Football All-Stars.

To say she is doing our family proud is something of an understatement.

For an interested sports observer and reporter like myself, it has provided me with a brilliant insight into the lifestyle of an inter-county GAA player. As that is very much what it is, a lifestyle.

You have to live and breathe it every single day and I have seen how Erika’s entire life revolves around Cork training and matches.

Not only in terms of training, but away from the pitch she constantly has to watch what she eats and drinks, while gym strength and conditioning sessions also are a regular on the agenda.

For years, Erika looked up to the likes of Ciara O’Sullivan and Orla Finn as role models. So I know it is a massive honour for her to be sharing the same pitch as them.

Sometimes I have to pinch myself, that yes, she is indeed my sister out there playing with Cork, marking some of the top footballers in the country in Vikki Wall of Meath or Carla Rowe of Dublin.

Make no bones about it, the Cork seniors are athletes who train at an exceptionally high standard.

Having my sister involved with the Rebels, I have been able to witness first-hand the hours and dedication they make. The Cork footballers are so driven in everything they do on and off the pitch.

The fact Orlagh Farmer was able to complete a PHD while also being a part of the Cork setup is outstanding in my opinion. As a collective, this desire can be seen right across the Cork squad. They are immensely driven in everything they do.

On Stephen’s Day, while tucking into some leftover turkey from Christmas Day, I was asked by Erika to drop her to the local park so she could go running.

I could recall several other stories like this in recent years, another insight to me of the desire players constantly have to improve.

During the lockdown and early few months of 2021, Erika clocked up many, many kilometres in the Town Park in Macroom, trying to ensure she was in top condition once collective training was able to resume.

What it illustrated to me was the demands and effort players on the Cork team are willing to put in. In terms of hours put in, Cork and other inter-county sides are essentially professional.

From observing Erika, the commitment is total. But there is nothing else she would rather be doing.

SUPPORT

My parents in particular also deserve to be given credit for the roles they undertake. Like Erika, they have very much seen their daily lives revolve around GAA matters.

They will more often than not watch back the recordings of matches, not only once but a few times in the weeks afterwards, with Erika also looking back at games for her video performance analysis.

As parents, they will do whatever it takes to see Erika her achieve her sporting dreams.

They drove up to Dublin for the 2020 All-Ireland final, but had to watch the game in a nearby Dublin Airport Hotel, given that games at the time in Croke Park were behind closed doors.

The 2022 season will be shortly getting underway. Hopefully we will be reflecting on a Cork All-Ireland Ladies Football Championship title success come the end of it.

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