Kerry captain Aislinn Desmond on injury heartbreak: 'I’ve never been a spectator'

Kerry captain Aislinn Desmond on injury heartbreak: 'I’ve never been a spectator'
Kerry captain Aislinn Desmond.

It was on the first Sunday of April when Kerry skipper Aislinn Desmond felt the snap in her left knee, writes Jackie Cahill.

The Kingdom were playing Monaghan in a Lidl Ladies National Football League Division 1 clash and after falling to the ground, Desmond knew that damage was done.

Desmond’s injury was diagnosed as a grade two medial ligament tear and she was ruled out for six weeks.

And so the 27-year-old Rathmore star will be a frustrated spectator in Birr on Saturday when Kerry tackle in-form Mayo in the Division 1 semi-final.

Desmond’s absence also robs fans of watching her renew an intense rivalry with Mayo superstar Cora Staunton.

In recent years, the pair have enjoyed some fierce battles on the field of play and tough-tackling full-back Desmond reflected: “When you’re playing at the top, you want to match the top players.

“Whenever I’m told I’m on her, I relish the opportunity because she’s so good.

“Unfortunately, I’m not going to be on her this time.”

Mayo's Cora Staunton.
Mayo's Cora Staunton.

Club-mate Cassandra Buckley will lead Kerry out at St Brendan’s Park and Desmond admits that she doesn’t know how she will feel watching the game.

“I’ve no idea,” she says. “I’ve never been a spectator, I don’t even know what I’m going to be like.

“Even against Tyrone, I felt like I was playing, shouting the calls because normally I’d be one of the most vocal backs. It will be great for somebody else to take that role and step up.”

And Desmond recalled the moment when she sustained the injury against Monaghan.

“I was going for a ball and when I got up, my knee just snapped. They took me off straight away and the MRI showed up a grade two tear in the MCL (medial collateral ligament), and that I’d be out for six weeks.

“I’ll definitely be back for championship, it happened on the 3rd of April and I’m 18 days into it now, not that I’m counting or anything!

“Rehab is going good and I’m starting back in the gym now. I’ve never actually been injured before, never missed a game, and to miss this as captain is tough.

“But I’m delighted for the girls that we are through.”

Mayo won all seven of their group games to finish nine points ahead of their nearest challengers and advance to the semi-finals.

But Kerry beat them in last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final and Desmond said: “We would respect them, they have phenomenal players but we wouldn’t have them up on a pedestal by any means.

“I definitely think we’ll be victorious, the girls have put a lot of effort in and we’ve had a great opportunity to to see where players are, and to see the new players.

“Throughout the League, everybody got a go and now it’s about getting people into the right places.

“There’s fierce belief within the team, real unity this year more so than other years. I know our League campaign has been mixed but we still beat Cork, Galway and Monaghan, quite comprehensively.

“We come into this one under the radar, which is great. Mayo are favourites, which is fantastic because there’s no pressure on us.”

Two years ago, Desmond alleviated pressure on herself by moving back to Kerry, having spent two years commuting up and down from Dublin, where she was working with Kerry Group.

Now based in Tralee with JRI America bank, Desmond has now consigned the memories of gruelling eight-hour round trips to the past.

The 2015 All-star smiled: “They’re a great organisation to work for, really accommodating football-wise.

“We’re actually based in the Technology Park and I can look down on where we train! So from the furthest commute at one point, I’m now the shortest.

“While I trained with Foxrock Cabinteely in Dublin, I used to travel down to Kerry on Wednesday night, and travel back up. I travelled down again on Friday, and back on Sunday.

“On the Wednesdays, it was a case of into work at seven until three, leave the office at three, down to Kerry for five to seven, training at 7.30 until nine, and then back to Dublin for one o’clock in the morning.

“In fairness, it wasn’t a sustainable lifestyle for starters and I couldn’t really enjoy football. I was constantly on the road and stiff and I needed to make a decision.

“Obviously football was going to come first so I decided to move down, got a job here and it’s worked out well in the end.”

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