CORK captain Mary O’Connor revealed that “a fear of losing” propelled the county to its fifth straight All-Ireland Ladies football titles and that it will be their driving force once again when they seek a sixth.
It seems almost indecent to be craning necks forward to what 2010 might bring, but there are few signs that Eamon Ryan’s side are ready to vacate the throne in the women’s game.
“Definitely the talent and underage success is there,” said O’Connor. “As we saw (on Sunday) it’s been very difficult to win five. It takes nine months. These players have given a lot to Gaelic football.
“We’re going to celebrate this. We’re going to try and fund raise for a big holiday. If you could put it out there that we’re looking for some help in that department, I think we deserve it.
“If men had won five All-Irelands in-a-row I think they’d be in free cars, free junkets and be made Freemen of the City but we’re going to enjoy this because it’s the 27 players and management that have been with us the last five years that have made it happen.”
Cork showed just how much they abhor the very idea of defeat last weekend when they turned a two-point deficit into a one-point victory in the last ten minutes against a hungry and talented Dublin side.
What made it all the more impressive was the fact that a number of the Cork players didn’t play as well as they can on the day and yet they still dug deep enough to pip their opponents.
“In saying that, people did have purple patches in the game. This was a team effort in terms of the character. Players got a flick in here, a block down there. Our experience showed in the last 15 minutes.
“We got to grips with the game. We were trying to walk the ball in before that. We tried to let the ball do the talking. When the shot wasn’t on we were composed and laid the ball off. That stood to us in the end.
“You saw then with a minute and ten seconds to go that we were able to use the possession game that we do in training. That is experience. You can’t buy that.
“But Dublin are a super team and they are going to be around for a while.”
Few would disagree with that. O’Connor pinpointed the Leinster side’s ability to crowd out midfield and the Cork half-forward line as contributing factors to their struggle at the weekend.
That this wasn’t one of the Munster side’s best displays won’t dilute the sense of achievement for these Cork players.
If anything, the struggle will make them appreciate it all the more.
“It feels fantastic because, with ten minutes to go, I would have taken a draw. It’s an amazing experience that nobody can appreciate because they aren’t down on that field with us. All-Irelands aren’t won and lost on final day. They are won in the nine months before that.
“This group of girls have given up everything. People talk about sacrifices. We haven’t called them sacrifices. We call them winning choices and the winning choices we made this year stood to us in the game.
“I can’t say enough about this bunch of girls. Cork people should be very proud and if young women are looking for role models and heroines in sport they could pick any one of these Cork footballers.
“Down through the last five years there have been girls away at college, others away working, or on the road. If training is on at seven o’clock then girls are there at seven o’clock.
“There are no excuses and there would have been no excuses if we had lost that match.”
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