Micheál O’Connor: All-Ireland adventure has united Kinsale

A “rollercoaster” journey which has brought the town together “like I’ve never seen it before”.

 So goes manager Micheál O’Connor’s description of the two-year run which has put the Kinsale ladies within an hour of All-Ireland intermediate glory. This Sunday at Parnell Park (1.45pm), they face Dunboyne of Meath in the club decider. It is their second successive All-Ireland final appearance, having unsuccessfully contested the junior decider this time last year.

The step-up in grade has proven of little difficulty, the Cork coastal town sweeping to county and Munster glory at the first attempt.

Back-to-back All-Ireland junior and intermediate final appearances see O’Connor’s charges join a pretty exclusive group of which Rockchapel and Rockbán are the other members. Rockchapel and Rockbán won both of their respective final appearances around the turn of the millennium and, while Kinsale cannot replicate that particular feat, they’re determined not to allow the conclusion to their 2016 season repeat itself.

“When I got involved with these girls last year, they were coming off defeat in the 2015 county junior final. Their goal for 2016 was to win the county junior title. They did that. They lost the 2016 All- Ireland final and so their goal in 2017, once the Cork championship was taken care of, was to win the All-Ireland. It says a lot about these players that they’ve got themselves back to another All-Ireland final,” said O’Connor.

Amplifying their run is the age profile of this Kinsale team. Goalkeeper Aisling Judge and Cork forward Orla Finn are the eldest members of the team, neither of whom “are more than 26”. Indeed, the manager reckons just four of his starting team are over 21.

“You’ve Faye Ahern who is 15, Jenny Murphy is a year older. Tracey McCarthy, Sadhbh O’Leary, Nicole Quinn, and Georgia Gould are all teenagers. It is an exceptionally young team.

“You could see in last year’s final that the players were shell-shocked. It was a completely new experience for us and we were nine points down at half-time to St Maur’s. We spoke about the Maur’s game during the year. They were ahead of us that afternoon and we talked about making that step up, we’ve got there now. New girls have stood up for us in every game. In the All- Ireland semi-final, then, we played as a unit.”

That afternoon, brought home to O’Connor and his players how their journey has captured the local imagination. It was a home fixture and the club certainly put its best foot forward for the visit of Moycullen.

“I was up at the pitch at 8pm the week of the game and there was a local man fixing up the place, he said he’d been there until midnight the night before. That was the effort being put in. People were at the semi-final who had never been at a game before and who are now going to the final. This run has brought Kinsale together like I’ve never seen it before.”

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