'It's a little bit more special'
Winning club All-Ireland would be perfect send-off for Sydney-bound Staunton
There are many ways to prepare for an All-Ireland final, but packing your bags for a move across the world is not usually one of them. For Cora Staunton, however, that's a necessary evil ahead of Sunday's senior club decider with Mourneabbey, when the 35-year-old Mayo star is looking to secure a fifth title with her club Carnacon.
Win or lose, she'll have just 48 hours when the final whistle blows before she flies to Sydney, where Staunton will try her hand at Australian Rules Football after recently signing a contract with the Greater Western Sydney Giants.
"Please God, I'll be flying off with an All-Ireland club medal in the back pocket," she said.
In the event of a draw, Staunton has made arrangements with her new team to stick around a week longer, though Carnacon's run to their first final since 2013 has already meant she'll be a late arrival.
"I'm meant to be out there since the 10th of November - that's when my contract started - but the club have been very good," she said.
In recent weeks Staunton has tried her best to fit in some practice with the oval ball, but admits she'll only truly train her thoughts on her new sport when she arrives in Sydney next Thursday.
Ever since Mayo sunk to a thorough defeat by Dublin in the All-Ireland Ladies Football final two months ago, she's been busy finding something to soothe that pain - and in Parnell Park on Sunday she has just the thing.
"It was very disappointing, but it's great to step back into the winning mentality in (Carnacon)," she said. "That's half the reason I've stayed with club football."
With a talent as great as hers, it's no surprise she has more football miles on the clock than most 35-year-olds, and Staunton remains undecided about committing to Mayo upon her return to Ireland next April.
"Physically, I don't know what shape I'll be in coming home," she said. "This is month 12 now, and I'll have to try and fit another four months in so I don't know how well my body will be able. If I'm able to go again, who knows? I could be in great shape but I could be the opposite."
Over the last 10 weekends, she has racked up six matches along with squeezing in a trip to her new home in Sydney, and it's no discredit to her Carnacon team-mates to say it is her, primarily, who has put them on the cusp of their first All-Ireland title in four years.
It may be Staunton's ninth final, but if she can help them over the line again it will prove as satisfying as any success - club or county.
"It's a little bit more special (to win with the club)," she said. "It's very community-based. You're 35 but running beside a 14- or 15-year-old in training. There's great banter and slagging between us, but you're always trying to mind them and guide them through."
Standing in their way are Munster champions Mourneabbey, a side captained by Bríd O'Sullivan who know all too well how it feels to fall at the final hurdle, having lost the deciders in 2014 and 2015.
"Trying to get over the line this year has been the big thing," said Shane Ronayne, the Mourneabbey manager who also guided Tipperary to All-Ireland intermediate success in September. "We haven't changed anything physically, but they've become mentally stronger. We want to go out and play without fear. If they can play with a bit of freedom I think they've every chance on Sunday."