The dust had barely settled from the 2005 All-Ireland camogie final when the Cork ladies football team wandered onto the Croke Park turf for a brief kick-around.
Their debut September appearance was a fortnight away and manager Eamonn Ryan was determined to give his charges a feel for GAA headquarters.
Geraldine O’Flynn, 18 at the time, believes the evening spent in and around Croke Park was a significant factor in the first of their nine All-Ireland crowns.
“We watched the camogie final and then went on the pitch for a kick-about afterwards, I don’t think you’d get away with it now,” grins the Pobalscoil na Tríonóide, Youghal, PE and Maths teacher.
“We got to see the dressing-rooms, the pre-match warm-up area and then walk on the pitch. That was huge for us because this was all new to the team, we’d never been near the Croke Park dressing-rooms.
“The weekend of the game was huge too, the travelling up on the Saturday was something we had never experienced before. We stayed in the Red Cow, had mass and a meal on Saturday evening and then had a chat in an industrial estate not far from the hotel on Sunday morning. It is funny how nothing has changed in that regard over the 10-years.
O’Flynn lasted just 27 minutes against Galway, replaced by Mary O’Connor.
Glorious redemption, mind, was achieved the following September, the St Mary’s footballer delivering the winning point in the 1-7 to 1-6 final triumph over Armagh.
She’d kick a similarly game-defining score two-minutes from the end of last year’s decider.
Having registered two second-half wides, O’Flynn displayed remarkable confidence to successfully employ the right boot from a similar position from where she kicked those “bad, bad misses”.
Hers was Cork’s 13th point, the final scoreline reading 2-13 to 2-12 in their favour.
“Doireann O’Sullivan was breaking through each time we got forward and she was creating space in every play. I knew if she saw me she would give it to me. She drew in two players and I was then the player in space.
“The kick was similar to the ones we had been doing in the 80 training sessions previous to the final, you come around the corner and you kick it over the bar.
“Maybe I had done too much thinking about the kicks before that. I didn’t do any thinking about that particular kick.”
Manager Eamonn Ryan has often cited this team’s ability to recover from a mistake — and the manner in which they do so — as one of their most outstanding traits, that skill of being able to move on and not be consumed with the importance of yourself. Geraldine O’Flynn’s All-Ireland final winning kick stands as the perfect example.
“I had a couple of bad wides. I would have been more disappointed with them than anyone else. They didn’t affect me. You make a mistake, you get over it and you try and get yourself back in the game.
“That mentality is a big part of this team. It rubs off on you. Sometimes that works out, sometimes it doesn’t. I was right glad to see the ball go over.”
Experience too played a key role in O’Flynn’s decision to back herself.
“It is much harder when you are new on the scene and coming into a new set-up. It is much harder to break onto a team when it is a winning team. It is hard to get scores, impose yourself.
“Maybe the fact that I had been there from the beginning was a factor. More than likely it probably did have a role in me taking on responsibility. I had seen us come back from the brink on several occasions before. You know what needs to be done.”
O’Flynn is one of six Cork players attempting to capture a 10th Celtic Cross on Sunday - joined in this history-chasing club by Rena Buckley, Briege Corkery, Deirdre O’Reilly, Valerie Mulcahy and Bríd Stack the others.
“People keep reminding us this will be number 10 if we do win it, but do I think it will play a part when the ball is thrown in, no. We’d talk about the various finals once the season is done and dusted. Then the new season comes around again and our only goal is to be back at the top when it finishes.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved