On each occasion, there have been players involved in the two games as well, however. On September 10, Rachel O’Shea was one of those.
Though still a teenager, O’Shea was a key operator as the Rebels’ second team made it to Croke Park 12 months ago, scoring six points in the semi-final win over Laois and shooting four in the agonising one-point defeat to Kilkenny that left her in floods of tears.
She had done enough to warrant an introduction to the senior squad for this year’s National League, however, to give her a glimpse of what that environment was like. In the meantime, she propelled Cork to the Division 2 title, giving a player-of-the-match performance in the final by scoring six points in the defeat of Derry.
She was also a central figure three weeks ago scoring three points in the intermediate showpiece Cork looked destined to win before being reeled in by a stunning late Meath surge. When the final whistle blew, O’Shea headed to the senior dressing room which was counting down to their final against Kilkenny. It meant she had little time to dwell on the what ifs, buts, and maybes of the previous 75 minutes at Croke Park.
“It’s an honour to be on both panels,” says the 20-yeard-old from Carrigaline. “After the match, I just went into the dressing room. I gathered myself first because you have to remember you’re going into a dressing room where they haven’t even gone out onto the pitch yet. You have to be positive. It has to be you came in and nothing has happened and focus for that match.”
In one of the most dramatic finals of the modern era, Cork snatched victory thanks to Julia White’s winner in the sixth minute of injury time. But O’Shea found it hard to celebrate. “My focus again (after the senior final) was straight away on the next game, getting the mentality right, resting up, getting hydrated after the match. We have another shot, we haven’t lost it, so 100% I was focused on that, not on celebrating.”
The third-year recreation and leisure management student at Cork IT is accentuating the positives as she looks forward to Sunday’s replay at the Gaelic Grounds. “We’re such a close-knit team, we get on very well. It’s another three weeks with your best friends, back to what we love doing. We’ll have loads of time in the winter to rest up so we’re delighted to be back.”