Mixed emotions for Kerry captain Aislinn Desmond

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.”

Q&A: Aislinn Desmond, Kerry

Q: Do you remember the day you decided this was the sport for you?

A: I’d never really been too interested in football, I was more into athletics, but we had trials for the Primary Game and I remember thinking ‘oh my God, this is unreal’ after making the team. It was a really nice feeling to be involved with a team as opposed to an individual sport.

Q: Injury, illness aside, what’s the one thing you’d miss training for?

A: I missed training this year for my sister’s wedding. Other than that, there should be no other reason for any of us to miss training with Alan O’Neill this year!

Q: Your sporting hero when you were 10?

A: Seamus Moynihan. An absolute hero and gentleman.

Q: The favourite moment of your career so far?

A: Beating Cork in Munster finals.

Q: Biggest frustration with your sporting career or your sport?

A: With my sporting career, it’s consistently losing to Cork in All-Ireland semi-finals and with my sport, how ladies football is inferior to men’s. It’s a bugbear but in fairness, we’re treated very well in Kerry.

Q: One rule change you’d make to your sport?

A: Get rid of the sin-bin. Ladies football really is becoming a non-contact sport. Q: What is your ultimate career goal?

A: To win the All-Ireland senior title.

Q: Five tracks for your ideal dressing room/training run playlist?

A: Will Sparks — Phoenix; Muzz — New World Sound; Deadmau5 — Not exactly; Swedish House Mafia — Greyhound; Iggy Azalea — Team,

Here’s a little extra sport. Watch the latest BallTalk for the best sports chat and analysis:

Premier League Manager of the season

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Premier League Flops of the Season

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