There were many things to admire about Cork’s win over Waterford in the TG4 Munster Ladies Senior Football Championship at Clonakilty last weekend.
Their defensive display that restricted their opponents to just one point from play for the entire game, topped off with an impressive return of 2-10 from the forward line.
Add in the many members of Clonakilty women’s and men’s GAA clubs that made it the success it was.
But one important happening only took place with nine minutes to go.
After a tough year or two with injuries, the Smiling Assassin was back. And it will surprise some to hear that it was also Laura Fitzgerald’s senior championship debut for Cork.
Laura was involved with the Cork squad going back a few years before opting out and then returning last season.
Unfortunately, her inter-county season was cut short when she picked up a serious knee injury in training.
She did return for the club championship but wasn’t right and ended up having an operation in December.
So began countless hours of rehab, often working alone, like many others on the road back.
But last Sunday all that hard work paid off as Laura took to the pitch with nine minutes to go and with her first three touches scored 1-2.
No great surprise there as her scoring prowess is well known and as we get to the business end of the Munster championship and the All-Ireland series only weeks away it’s a welcome boost for Cork manager Shane Ronaye and all involved with the inter-county side.
She is one of those players that plays with a smile on her face, but many an opponent has been fooled by this as she is simply deadly in front of the goal and if you need a green flag there are few better to raise it for you.
Few that were there will ever forget her score in literally the last 20 seconds of the All-Ireland club championship final in 2019.
With the sides level, she picked up the ball and coolly slotted over to see Mourneabbey retain their title.
The congratulations she received afterward last Sunday from her fellow Cork players showed the esteem she is held in, but also how aware all are of the hard work needed to get back to the top.
Cork are due to take on Kerry in the Munster final on May 28 and having Laura back fit and available will give Ronayne the type of selection headache any manager wants.
Speaking about her return after the Waterford game Laura said: “Absolutely delighted with that and I’m over the moon to be back. I couldn’t have asked for better for a championship debut after being injured for so long.
“I put in a lot of work behind the scenes with Paul and Sinead and I was delighted to get on and score. Shane said to me before I went on that all the hard work was done and to just out and play and I did that. “After months of just looking on it was great to be out there and hopefully put myself in contention for a place in the squad for the Munster final,” said Laura.
Have no doubt she will be and it would be a surprise if she doesn’t play some part against Kerry.