Injury woes feed O'Shea hunger for Cork glory
PUPILS of Blackwater College in Lismore have a few obvious sporting heroes.
The Shanahan brothers, Big Dan and Maurice, are the pride of the local club, while the school's staffroom also includes Michelle Ryan, a star of the Waterford's ladies football team.
Lismore is real hurling country, so Blackwater's students would probably also have huge respect for Henry Shefflin.
Also in their midst is a PE and maths teacher who is back at the top of her game after showing recovery powers to rival those of King Henry.
Ask Cork football captain Amy O'Shea (28) about the injury that saw her stretchered off in the 2009 All-Ireland final and she says: "Ah that was just a few broken ribs. I was only out for a month or so, it was just a small thing."
Only someone with her horrific personal injury history would take such an attitude.
Like Shefflin, O'Shea has battled back from two cruciate surgeries, one on each knee.
The Castlemartyr native made her inter-county debut aged 14; she suffered her first cruciate at 18 and the second when she was 21 and then, last year, she snapped a cartilage.
However, you wouldn't have known it from the way the blonde pocket-rocket blasted a hat-trick of goals past Laois in this year's TG4 All-Ireland semi-finals to earn next Sunday's final clash with Monaghan, a repeat of the 2008 final.
"I've had a bad innings with my knees, but it's made me mentally stronger," O'Shea insists.
"If you bounce back from any injury you say: 'I know I can do it' and you also know how hungry you are, and what a sickener it is to be sitting at home when the girls are all training.
"There's so many trains of thought out there now as to what's causing them," O'Shea muses on the 'Curse of the Cruciate.'
"Is it blades? Is it sand? Is it overtraining or the over-development of some muscles or compensation by others? At the end of the day, I think it comes down to bad luck and I was just particularly unlucky to do both of mine.
"I lost four years to cruciate injuries, but maybe I wouldn't still be playing this long without them and be looking forward to Sunday."
Even O'Shea's breezy optimism was tested to the limit last year when she was hit by a third serious injury, and Cork, the unrivalled five in a row champions -- admittedly without Briege Corkery, who was away travelling -- were knocked out in the quarter-finals by eventual finalists Tyrone.
Incredibly, they lost Geraldine O'Flynn and Ciara O'Sullivan to cruciate injuries by half-time. They only scored twice (two frees) after the break and finished with just 13 after two players were sin-binned.
Was O'Shea tempted to quit afterwards?
"I was and I wasn't," she says. "I'd been injured again and it wasn't a good season for me, but my club (Inch Rovers) stayed going all the way to December, to the All-Ireland club final against Carnacon.
"We were training in the toughest of weather, snow and everything, and yet I found myself sitting at home in the middle of January thinking, 'I miss it'.
"It's the year you're at home thinking 'I'd hate to be out training', that's the time you'll go, but I definitely felt the hunger was still there."
Like their captain, Cork now look to be on a serious mission of redemption. They beat Laois in the league final, pipped reigning champions Dublin in the quarters and then blitzed Laois 4-10 to 1-6.
"If it is a 'mission' then it's a self-imposed one," O'Shea stresses. "But yes, we wanted to prove to ourselves that the football didn't just disappear overnight, that last year wasn't the real us.
"It was a very bitter pill to swallow, we were disgusted. Not because we lost, but because we didn't do ourselves justice.
"We didn't cope with eventualities on the day that we should have, but that's last year and we put it away and refocused ourselves."