Finola Neville possesses two All-Ireland medals but has an opportunity to double that tally in the space of around three and a half hours on Sunday, writes Daragh Ó Conchúir.
Neville has garnered two precious mementoes as a result of being a member of the Cork Senior Camogie panel in the past couple of seasons and once again, is part of the squad that will be bidding for a three-in-row in the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Championship Final at Croke Park.
By the time Éamon Cassidy throws in the sliotar at 4pm however, the 23-year-old will have played in the Intermediate decider and the prospect of winning a medal on the most famous of Gaelic Games fields is a mouth-watering one.
“It’s a lot sweeter if you’re playing” agrees Neville.
“You don’t have control over that of course and it’s an honour to be involved at all with All-Ireland winning teams but playing is where you want to be, you want to be on the pitch and contributing that way. So it would be special.
“It’s an honour any day you put on a red jersey for Cork. Obviously you want to be playing at the highest level you’re capable of but any day you’re playing for Cork, be it Senior or Intermediate, it’s a huge honour for myself and for my club to be representing them. When you’re putting on a Cork jersey, it doesn’t matter what level it is.
“Any athlete who is competitive in any way will want to be on the first team. I think that’s just natural for any sportsperson, to want to be at the top. But you take what comes and the year this year with the Intermediates has been unbelievable and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
“It’s a huge opportunity and that has made it a bit easier not being on the Senior team to be in the Intermediate Final this year. If you told me at the start of the year we’d be in Croke Park in the Intermediate Final, you’d take that.”
Not that it has occurred by accident.
“Last year we got beaten in the Semi-Final above in Nowlan Park and that was a huge disappointment for all of the Intermediate team.
“From the get-go this year, that was our target, to go a step further and take it to Croke Park, to get to the All-Ireland Final. We would have felt we let ourselves down last year so it was a big goal.”
Having to turn around and be prepared for a possible introduction to the fray in the Senior game afterwards will provide a mental challenge regardless of the result.
There will be a physical one too, although having just graduated from IT Carlow after four years studying sports rehab and athletic therapy, and working at Avondhu Physiotherapy in Fermoy, Neville is well placed to deal with that.
“You take the first game as it comes and deal with that, and then worry about whatever comes after that” is her approach to the circumstances facing almost 10 Cork players. “Take one step at the time and focus about what’s in front of you.
“You don’t have to overthink it. Just go out and play.”
The St. Catherine’s attacker is fully cognisant of the challenge faced by Paudie Murray’s crew, with Kilkenny racking up 17-69 at an average of 3-15 a game en route to Croke Park.
Cork have been nowhere near as productive but their game plan is centred on making it more difficult for opposition teams to score, conceding just 1-25 in three group games and 2-6 to Laois in the Semi-Final.
“They’ve scored a lot of goals alright, put up huge scores. They seem to be very strong. I suppose they’ll be favourites going into the game. They had a big win over Kildare as well – I don’t think Kildare even scored in the second half.
“It will be a good challenge for us and we’re looking forward to that.”
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