Ciara O’Sullivan: I’m captaining a team of Rebel leaders

Ladies Football: In 2006, Ciara O’Sullivan sat in the stands in Croke Park watching Geraldine O’Flynn kick the winning point against Armagh to see Cork retain the Brendan Martin Cup.

She knew then that playing for the seniors was a must, and soon Eamonn Ryan came calling. Now 24, the Deloitte employee has been involved for seven years, with last season by far her best under captain Briege Corkery.

A first Cork senior club championship medal with Mourneabbey, a first Munster title, a Division 1 league title, a second All Star, and MVP awards in the Munster Championship final and All-Ireland semi-final, paints the picture.

But, taking over the captain’s armband doesn’t bring added pressure according to O’Sullivan, and she hopes to emulate Corkery’s style when making her home debut against Kerry in Cloughduv tomorrow (2pm).

“If I could try and do what Briege did last year...be captain in how I play rather than making big speeches, then I think that approach might best suit me. It’s just captain in name because the girls are so driven as it is. They’re all leaders.”

Last weekend Cork opened their Division 1 NFL title defence with a win away to Mayo. Having trailed by three points at the turnaround in an icy Swinford, they came back to win 2-13 to 1-8, with a number of debutantes stepping up.

Irish rugby 7s star Ashling Hutchings lined out at corner-back, while O’Sullivan’s older sister, Roisín, had the task of marking Cora Staunton, Máire O’Callaghan marshalled midfield and Bride Rovers’ Jennifer Barry featured at wing-forward in the absence of retirees Anne-Marie Walsh, Norita Kelly, Niamh O’Keeffe, Angela Walsh and Sarah Harrington. But, despite the exodus, O’Sullivan disagrees that this is a new era.

“I wouldn’t say it is because we still have the same management and players. A lot of the girls who started last week have been bedded into the panel over the last few years, so they know the system and how it works.”

O’Sullivan knows how much Cork need to be at the top of their game tomorrow.

“Kerry are in same boat as us. They’ve extended their panel too and have a number of young players in the mix so it’ll be interesting to see how things pan out.”

Unfortunately her younger sister, Doireann, is unavailable having pulled her hamstring in last weekend’s opener, and is likely to be out for four weeks. Orlagh Farmer and Orla Finn are also out due to injury, while Alan O’Neill’s Kerry are injury-free with Bernie Breen and Emma Sherwood returning after their win away to Tyrone last weekend.

Elsewhere tomorrow, Monaghan and Tyrone are both looking for their first wins, Galway host Dublin, and Mayo travel to Laois.

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