Friday 2 December 2016

Sinead Kissane: Expect brilliance and ferocity as Cork bring formation tour to Croker

Published 24/09/2016 | 02:30

The Cork players have a way of making their actions live up to their intentions and it’s backboned by consistency with players like Brid Stack, pictured, Deirdre O’Reilly, Briege Corkery and Rena Buckley, who have started every one of their 10 previous All-Ireland final wins and played every minute of those finals Picture: Sportsfile
The Cork players have a way of making their actions live up to their intentions and it’s backboned by consistency with players like Brid Stack, pictured, Deirdre O’Reilly, Briege Corkery and Rena Buckley, who have started every one of their 10 previous All-Ireland final wins and played every minute of those finals Picture: Sportsfile

When Beyoncé and her high-heeled fierceness played Croke Park for one night only earlier this summer, she gave a corporate message to her fans during her Formation concert: "If you're a woman you're born strong. There's no such thing as a weak woman."

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No performer does girl-power salutes like Beyoncé, even if she masquerades sales pitches for her latest album as sugar-hit affirmations which can fade as fast as a flick of her hair.

When one of the greatest teams in Irish sport runs onto the pitch at Croke Park tomorrow, they will bring their own version of a formation tour.

If one of the storylines around last Sunday's men's final was how Mayo keep coming back for more despite all the heartbreaks, tomorrow Cork are back for more, against Dublin, as they try to win their 11th All-Ireland title in 12 years and their sixth in a row.

These Cork players have a way of making their actions live up to their intentions and it's backboned by consistency with players like Brid Stack, Deirdre O'Reilly, Briege Corkery and Rena Buckley, who have started every one of their 10 previous All-Ireland final wins and played every minute of those finals.

Please, take a second to digest that; they have started every one of Cork's 10 previous All-Ireland final wins and played every single gut-busting minute of those finals.

The formation of this team with its unbending drive is also underpinned by younger players like forward Áine Terry O'Sullivan.

When Cork lost the Munster final to Kerry last year, they needed a fuse to spark their summer and it came in their qualifier win over Meath, with O'Sullivan making her debut and scoring 3-5.

She was part of the Cork panel in 2014 and was water-carrier on the day of their ninth All-Ireland win.

O'Sullivan (22) is from Allihies, a coastal village on the western tip of the Beara Peninsula in west Cork. Travelling from there requires a commitment; it is a 286km round-trip from Allihies to Cork City.

When O'Sullivan trained with the Cork U-14 team, she had to leave home at 4.30pm after school and one of her parents, either her father John or her mother Mary, used to drive her up to Cork, and she wouldn't arrive back home again until midnight. That was when she was U-14!

Her twin brother Seán also played underage football for Cork. They couldn't have their parents spending five days a week driving them up and down to training with a four-and-a-half hour round-trip so something had to give. Áine Terry had to put her dream of playing for Cork on ice.

When she started at UCC and lived in the city, she was called into the U-21 panel and then into the seniors.

During the past few summers, the road trips up and down from Allihies to the city for training have been back on. O'Sullivan works every summer in her parents' shop and B&B in the middle of the village. It helps pay for the petrol and she's also able to take the seven hours she needs when it's a training day, three days a week.

"I definitely wouldn't be playing football with Cork if it wasn't for my mother and father," she says.

"With ladies football there's no expenses or anything. It would nearly be a hundred euro every week with the driving. So my parents are brilliant. I'm lucky to be from a good family."

You don't need to look much further than O'Sullivan's full name to see how tradition and family are tied up with who she is.

In places like Allihies, families like the O'Sullivans take their grandfather's Christian name too. Áine's grandfather was Terry, so in order to distinguish between families, she has 'Terry' in her name too.

"I'd say people forget I'm O'Sullivan because people are used to calling me Áine Terry. I remember in a match before, the name Áine O'Sullivan was called out and people were looking around going 'who's she?' After a while, they got the hang of it," she laughs.

Terry passed away nearly 20 years ago. His wife, Áine Terry's granny Maureen, is one of her biggest supporters and will be in Croke Park to watch her play in her second All-Ireland final.

After their final weekend training session last Sunday, the Cork players spent a few hours having lunch together. The experienced players in this team don't pull up the ladder after them now that they've made it to the top; O'Sullivan says they've been so supportive and encouraging to her. It's support like this which makes great women great.

"There's great friendships on the team. Everyone plays for each other. There's always that's mentality to try and win as much as we can," O'Sullivan says.

It's this support act for each other which helps form the fierceness and brilliance of this Cork team. They play Croke Park tomorrow. For one night only.

Irish Independent

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