It says something about the strength-in-depth of this Cork ladies football set-up that Eimear Scally has had to wait four years for her first championship start.
Eamonn Ryan’s preference was to use the Eire Óg forward off the bench, a role she would come to perfect during the final years of Ryan’s tenure — hers was the goal that completed Cork’s remarkable comeback in the 2014 All-Ireland final. Scally was just 17.
She’d kick 1-2 when introduced during the following year’s All-Ireland semi-final and was also among the scorers in the final win over Dublin. 2016, though, was something of a write-off. In November of 2015, Scally was diagnosed with glandular fever. She convinced herself that she was ready to return to the Cork fold for the concluding stages of their league campaign, but broke down once more after the league final win over Mayo.
“My throat was so swollen and I knew it wasn’t a normal infection as I felt very weak,” Scally recalled.
“My sister Elaine had been struck down with glandular fever before, so I was conscious of that. The doctor, unfortunately, confirmed what I had been thinking.
“The first two weeks, I had no appetite. The most I could get in was a bowl of soup. In fairness, the appetite came back after a couple of weeks. But that was it. I couldn’t exercise. I could fly it for five or 10 minutes, but then I’d completely crash.
“I came back in mid-March. I was only playing parts of games and doing bits of training. It was after the league final where I was back to square one. I had to take more time off. The worst was standing on the sideline not knowing when you’d be back. It was the end of July before I returned to the panel.”
And yet again she was confined to the bench, making cameo appearances in the All-Ireland quarter-final, semi and final. Her total championship involvement amounted to 31 minutes.
“I was unlucky in that I was out for around seven months. I probably didn’t feel completely better until last Christmas. I really missed not being involved at training. That was devastating and brought me down. Being involved this year has really picked up my spirits.”
Cork open their Munster campaign at Waterford in Dungarvan tomorrow (3pm).
“We’re well up for it and we’re really looking forward to getting going. They had a good win over Kerry and gave us a real good game last year so we know what to expect.”
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