Ladies Football: Stubborn Rebelettes not done yet – Elaine Harte
Cork ladies 'keeper insists love of game fuelling champions desire to succeed
THEY are the undisputed champions of Ladies Gaelic football, and this summer, in particular, the Rebelettes have proved why you write them off at your peril.
They are facing Monaghan in Sunday's TG4 All-Ireland senior final hoping for their eighth title in nine years and another three in-a-row.
But they've been written off a few times this summer, exactly the sort of talk that brings out the best in them.
In 2010 they famously lost a quarter-final to Tyrone, on a dramatic day when they lost two players to cruciate injuries and had two more sin-binned.
The sharks circled afterwards, sensing that their dominance of the game was finally broken. Yet Cork bounced back and have continued to defy the doubters this summer.
"When we lost (in 2010) people were saying: 'That's it, ye're gone, ye're done with' and I think we kind of fed off that," veteran goalkeeper Elaine Harte admits. "We said: 'We're not gone!' We're kind of stubborn like that!
"It's the love of the game that keeps us going too," she adds. "We really enjoy training, we're really good friends and we're doing it for each other."
They have looked particularly fallible this summer when Kerry beat them for a second time this year in a first championship defeat since 2010.
Yet when the sides were matched again in an All-Ireland quarter-final Eamonn Ryan's imperious champions won 2-9 to 0-11.
"Meeting Kerry a third time was definitely a factor," Harte (below) reveals. "We really didn't want to lose to them a third time in the one year.
"The will to get back to Croke Park was still very strong, especially as this is the 40th women's final, it's a very special year," she adds.
But even Harte, who has played in all seven of their previous finals, admits they've had a ropey summer and only found the mojo again once Juliet Murphy was persuaded out of retirement.
Harte points out that it wasn't just Murphy's initial loss that affected them, but also the retirement of fellow midfielder Norita Kelly.
"This summer's been topsy-turvy to say the least," she acknowledges of their one-point victory over Armagh and that remarkable comeback against Dublin, when they scored 1-10 without reply to snatch victory.
"The three points before the goal really won us the Dublin game and we didn't just go chasing goals which showed our experience.
"It just showed the heart of the team, the girls were all excellent and what won us that game was that we kept going for points, we never panicked. That game has really stood to us and given us great confidence since."
An Irish U-18 soccer goalkeeper in her youth, Harte initially played Gaelic outfield, but, eventually, ended up between the posts.
A primary school teacher who lives and plays her club football in Tipperary (Moyne Templetuohy), she played in Cork's first championship game this summer, but then went Down Under for a two-month break.
In her absence Clonakilty's All-Ireland club winning goalkeeper Martina O'Brien has usurped her and it remains to be seen which of them starts between the sticks on Sunday.
Harte has owned the jersey since 2002 and started in 2011 when they also met Monaghan in an unexpectedly low-scoring final where Cork got two soft goals (one a penalty) and just managed to hold on by two points.
"That was very low-scoring and I think it'll be a really tough battle from the very start again this time, Monaghan are a stronger team now, they've been the form team all year, but we're fairly even and it'll be down to who wants it most on the day," she said.
The champions, remarkably, have never lost an All-Ireland final, so could that add to the pressure on Sunday.
"No, we're not going to concentrate on any record, every match has its own merits, every All-Ireland is different," Harte insists. "Yesterday's dinner won't feed you today and any of our previous finals certainly won't help us on Sunday!"
* To mark the LGFA's 40th All-Ireland finals there will be at attempt at breaking the world record for 'most people to wear bandanas at one event' in Croke Park on Sunday, with proceeds going to the Irish Cancer Society.