Jenny Rispin is a player that stands out. In a fortnight that’s seen the dual star dilemma raise its ugly head again for Cork, Rispin and the Meath ladies footballers have been furrowing away under the radar ahead of today’s All-Ireland qualifier in Semple Stadium (3pm, live on TG4).
Following the resignation of their coach, former Mayo star Diane O’Hora, in the aftermath of the Royals’ loss to Westmeath in the Leinster Senior Football Championship (1-5 to 3-14), Rispin was appointed interim manager at a county board EGM.
Her appointment makes her the first player/coach of the modern ladies game, and the 28-year-old isn’t slightly fazed by the enormity of such a task since taking over a month ago.
“I was asked to give a dig out and it’s nice to know you’re trusted to lead the girls,” said Rispin, who works as a GAA development officer with the men’s county board.
“There was nothing to lose. I get on well with the girls and it was a case of coming in and doing the job as best I can.”
Rispin has been involved with a number of Meath’s underage teams, including overseeing their 2009 U16 All-Ireland win. However, a knee injury this year saw her take a step back from inter-county in the latter stages of the league. The injury has since rectified itself, and she’ll proudly put on a jersey again today.
Rispin was there in 2005, lining out at full-forward against Cork in the All-Ireland quarter-final in Portlaoise, but she’s the only player that remains from that era as transition takes its toll.
Apart from O’Hora’s departure, things have been tough with full-back Michelle Peal suffering a knee cruciate injury and vice-captain Síofra Cleary also recovering from an knee injury, while Maura O’Shaughnessy and Emma Troy are travelling. However, the return of Julie Ann Scannell and Paula Dunne, after a 10-year absence, has added to Rispin’s young squad.
The majority of O’Hora’s backroom staff have stayed on, including Anne Duncan, physio Christina Byrne and Bertie McLaughin, while Packie Reilly has come in to offer assistance as they face the reigning All-Ireland champions Cork, who lost to Kerry in the Munster SFC. Rispin was in Mallow that night to witness the nine-point defeat, and she knows Eamonn Ryan’s charges will be licking their wounds.
“We know we’re the underdogs and all you can do is look to your own strengths. It won’t get any harder than this and it’ll be a big challenge, but it’s something you should be looking forward to. For a lot of the players, it’s their first time playing senior with the county and playing teams like Cork is where you want to be.”
Rispin will tog out, but her priority will be to man the line first.
“At the minute I’m happy with the team we’re going to line out with, but if I feel there’s something I can contribute to the game later on, then I may come on.”
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