Friday 30 September 2016

“I know a lot of people would say that it’s time Cork went away but we love it” – Cork star Annie Walsh

Jackie Cahill

Published 09/09/2016 | 10:33

7 May 2016; Annie Walsh, Cork. Lidl Ladies Football National League, Division 1, Final, Mayo v Cork. Parnell Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE
7 May 2016; Annie Walsh, Cork. Lidl Ladies Football National League, Division 1, Final, Mayo v Cork. Parnell Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE

There are a few certainties in life – death, taxes, and the presence of Cork in a TG4 All-Ireland ladies senior football final.

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On September 25, the Rebelettes will appear in the final for the 11th time in 12 seasons – a quite remarkable record of consistency. It will be the third successive year that Dublin present final opposition but Cork are gunning for a sixth Brendan Martin Cup success in a row.

Annie Walsh is one of the key cogs in the Cork wheel, a selfless player who sacrifices much of her own attacking instincts to perform a very specific role. Operating in the half-forward line, Walsh does much of the fetching and carrying, her had work opening up space for other forwards to exploit.

Walsh might be the wrong side of 30 but she continues to operate at an extremely high level. A member of the Cork panel since 2008, the Inch Rovers player has won six All-Ireland medals and seven Lidl National League Division 1 crowns. Her eighth All-Ireland final lies in store but Walsh smiles: “It never gets old. “This is what everyone plays ladies football at inter-county level for, to get to Croke Park on final day and hopefully we can drive it on and finish the year on a high.

“As you start out at the start of the year, you want to get as far as you can and Croke Park is the pinnacle for Ladies footballers, she says. “We’re just delighted to be back there.”

On Saturday, Cork were put to the pin of their collar by a resilient Monaghan outfit. When the sides met earlier in the year, a March League fixture in Mourneabbey, Cork won by 25 points. This time, just three separated them at full-time as Cork dug out a 2-10 to 1-10 victory at the Gaelic Grounds.

Walsh explained: “We’ve been tested a few times during the year, no more than today again, but in fairness to the whole team and panel there, we just wanted this so much.

“I know a lot of people would say that it’s time Cork went away but we love it and we live for days like getting back to Croke Park.

“Every good thing comes to an end I suppose but just want to keep doing it for as long as we can.

“I think you could see out there, the never-say-die attitude from all the girls. |Even when things aren’t going well, I’d a few bad wides in the first half, but we have to grind it out and keep doing the simple things, keep playing as a team and hopefully come out on the right side of it.”

Briege Corkery, that remarkable dual star who has won ten All-Ireland senior medals along with six camogie titles, was brilliant again on Saturday, kicking four magnificent points from midfield. In the second half, she landed three as Cork battled into the wind and Walsh continues to be amazed by Corkery and her energy levels.

She said: “Just unbelievable but that’s what Briege does, she’s such a stalwart of the team.

“When the chips are down, she’s the one still putting the shoulder to the wheel, driving everybody on.

“She’s probably one of the most hungry people you’ll come across, given what she’s achieved.

“She just wants more and more. She lives for days like this as well and she showed out there why she’s been so successful.

“She’s a player who epitomises what we want Cork to be and we all want to be like Briege because we want to drive on.

“It would be very easy for people to sit back and leave others do the work but there’s great competition for the first 15 places and that will be driving us on again now for the next few weeks.”

Walsh also paid a generous tribute to Monaghan, who bounced back from losing six of their seven League games to win an Ulster title and contest an All-Ireland semi-final.

She added: “It can’t have been easy for them but it just shows the type of character they have and the people they are that they’re here, competing in an All-Ireland semi-final.

“They’ll feel they were one kick of the ball away from an All-Ireland final as well but we’re the opposing side. We’re just going to take the win where we can get it.”

And now it’s set up for another epic big-city clash between Cork and Dublin, as Walsh acknowledges that these are two teams who know quite a bit about each other. She said: “We’re after getting well acquainted in the last few years. I’m sure they’ll be looking at today and we’ll be looking back at their game against Mayo as well. We both had strong enough tests in our semi-finals and it will be all systems go no doubt in three weeks’ time.

Show your #SeriousSupport at the TG4 Ladies All-Ireland Football Championship Final on September 25th in Croke Park. Get your tickets here!

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