IT was the first Sunday of April when Kerry skipper, Aislinn Desmond, felt the snap in her left knee.
The Kingdom were playing Monaghan in a Lidl ladies’ National Football League division 1 clash. After falling to the ground, Desmond knew there was damage.
The injury was a grade-two medial ligament tear and Desmond was ruled out for six weeks. So, the 27-year-old Rathmore star will be a frustrated spectator in Birr tomorrow, when Kerry tackle in-form Mayo in the Division 1 semi-final.
Desmond’s absence also robs fans of her rivalry with Mayo superstar, Cora Staunton.
The pair have had fierce battles, and tough-tackling full-back, Desmond, reflected: “When you’re playing at the top, you want to match the top players.
“Whenever I’m told I’m on her, I relish the opportunity, because she’s so good. Unfortunately, I’m not on her this time.”
Club-mate, Cassandra Buckley, will lead Kerry out at St Brendan’s Park, and Desmond doesn’t know how she will feel watching the game.
“I’ve never been a spectator. I don’t even know what I’m going to be like. Even against Tyrone, I felt I was playing, shouting the calls, because I’d be one of the most vocal backs. It will be great for somebody else to take that role and step up.”
Desmond recalled the moment when she sustained the injury against Monaghan.
“I was going for a ball and when I got up, my knee just snapped. They took me off straight away and the MRI showed up a grade-two tear in the MCL (medial collateral ligament), and that I’d be out for six weeks.
“I’ll definitely be back for the Championship. It happened on April 3 and I’m 18 days into it now, not that I’m counting, or anything.
“Rehab is going well and I’m starting back in the gym now. I’ve never actually been injured before, never missed a game, and to miss this, as captain, is tough.
“But I’m delighted for the girls, that we are through.”
Mayo won all seven of their group games, to finish nine points ahead of their nearest challengers and advance to the semi-finals.
But Kerry beat them in last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final, and Desmond said: “We would respect them. They have phenomenal players, but we wouldn’t have them up on a pedestal, by any means.
“I definitely think we’ll be victorious. The girls have put a lot of effort in and we’ve had a great opportunity to see where players are, and to see new players.
“Throughout the league, everybody got a go and, now, it’s about getting people into the right places. There’s fierce belief within the team, real unity this year, more so than other years. I know our league campaign has been mixed, but we still beat Cork, Galway, and Monaghan, quite comprehensively. We come into this one under the radar, which is great.
“Mayo are favourites, which is fantastic, because there’s no pressure on us.”
Two years ago, Desmond alleviated pressure on herself by moving back to Kerry, having spent two years commuting up and down from Dublin, where she was working with Kerry Group.
Now based in Tralee, with JRI America bank, Desmond has consigned to memory the gruelling eight-hour round trips.
The 2015 All-star smiled: “They’re a great organisation to work for, really accommodating, football-wise. We’re actually based in the Technology Park and I can look down on where we train!
“So, from the furthest commute at one point, I’m now the shortest. While I trained with Foxrock Cabinteely, in Dublin, I used to travel down to Kerry on Wednesday nights, and travel back up. I travelled down again on Friday, and back on Sunday.
“On the Wednesdays, it was a case of into work at seven until three, leave the office at three, down to Kerry for five to seven, training at 7.30 until nine, and then back to Dublin for one o’clock in the morning.
“It wasn’t a sustainable lifestyle, for starters, and I couldn’t really enjoy football. I was constantly on the road and stiff and I needed to make a decision.
“Obviously, football was going to come first, so I decided to move down, got a job here, and it’s worked out well.”
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