The Mourneabbey star headed off on a whirlwind, two-month trip to South America in May when her contract finished with work, and the task of lifting the Division 1 National League trophy against Donegal was left to her younger sister Doireann.
“Obviously the timing of my contract finishing wasn’t ideal, but I wasn’t really going to get a chance like it again to go travelling, so I made the decision and stuck with it. Missing the league final was the hardest because I’d played all the games up to it and it was the first week away, so it was tough, but thankfully they got the job done.”
Doireann has since undergone keyhole surgery on her knee, and she too will return to action, in what will be a repeat of the 2016 All-Ireland semi-final. Ciara watched the league final in Columbia, while she was in Peru for the Munster SFC defeat to Waterford, and in Rio for the Kerry defeat, and it was difficult to process the unfamiliar territory of back-to-back defeats.
Upon her arrival into Cork Airport four weeks ago, O’Sullivan took part in a club session that very evening, and 24 hours later togged out to play a 20-minute cameo in a challenge match in preparation for today’s qualifier.
“My fitness is grand now, but I had a bit of work to do. The first three weeks were tough, but the little bit of altitude over might have helped!,” said O’Sullivan, who also confirmed that 2016 LGFA Players’ Player of the Year Bríd Stack has also returned to training following her travelling stint in the US.
The winners of today’s tie will take on Galway, but Ephie Fitzgerald’s side aren’t looking beyond the Monaghan challenge.
“We’ve had great battles against them, so we’ll be psyched up for it. We’ve had eight weeks since a game, and that’s a long time, but we know how good Monaghan are so no one’s taking anything for granted.”
The seniors hope to set the tone for their apprentices when the minors bid for a third successive Minor A All-Ireland title (4.45pm, live on TG4).
Meanwhile, Mayo boss Frank Browne admits his side have “buckets to work on” ahead of a crunch TG4 All- Ireland quarter-final with Ulster champions Donegal on August 19.
Almost five weeks after slumping to Galway in the Connacht final, a performance described by Browne as “an aberration,” Mayo got their championship challenge back on track with a 21-point mauling of Kildare in Saturday’s qualifier (3-20 to 0-8).
Mayo’s inside trio of Sarah Rowe, Cora Staunton and Grace Kelly landed 3-17 between them — Staunton leading the way with 1-11.
Mayo were 1-8 to 0-5 clear at half-time, as Rowe netted in the second minute, and they pulled away on the restart.
Browne admitted: “There are buckets to work on. If we give Donegal the space that we gave Kildare in the first half, we’ll be three goals down in the first 10 minutes, and it will be game over and ball burst.
They (Kildare) came out for the second half with a pep in their step but suddenly, we kicked on and got a couple of scores.
We were comfortable in the end and you could see the difference in terms of Division 1 and Division 2 or 3, in physicality and aggression. Our power is what took it home for us.”