Bring it on says Cork's Aisling O Connor

By Mary White



constant smile resides on Ashling O ‘Connor’s face but on Sunday,
it will melt into oblivion for 60 minutes. All-Ireland’s are a
familiar occurrence for the 22 year old apprentice electrician
having played in five to date but the greatest one of all is staring
her straight in the eye.

With four wins out of five ­ two club and two national leagues,
the Donoughmore woman’s track record is impressive to say the
least but of course a senior All-Ireland haul with Cork would
be a nice addition to the mantelpiece. At an early age Ashling
learnt the tricks of the trade for a corner forward from a funny
angle. Plonked between the goalposts which resided in the O’ Connor’s
backyard, the eldest brothers in a clan of nine – Denis, Christy,
Martin and Vincent would have no hesitation in bombarding Aisling
with Teddy McCarthy shots.

had no choice but to get stuck in and I was always in goal
for some strange reason”, she laughs. The boys would
be doing their best and at times it was hard to keep going
with the ball flying past a lot of the time but I wasn’t soon
being told to get stuck in or play on my own”. 

It wasn’t long before Ashling made her first appearance outfield
and under the guidance of Firmount National School teacher
Siobháin Casey she fine tuned her skills. So much so she participated
in three Sciath na Scoil finals in two years. The improvement
in her game was so immense that it was decided she would captain
the boys team to the final in 1996 but unfortunately her side
fell to Glenville NS.

Parents Dinny and Margaret proudly remain supportive and mother
Margaret has celebrated much of her daughters success as secretary
of the famous Donoughmore ladies football club. Now going
for their tenth successive county title in the Evening Echo
senior ladies football championship, she hopes her club can
regain their All-Ireland title which they agonisingly lost
last November to Ballybodens with 30 seconds on the clock.
A former Cork captain in 2002 Ashling is aware of the duties
involved but now the honour is held by her club team-mate
Juliet Murphy.

couldn’t pick a better captain for this Cork team. Juliet is simply
the best at that task. She motivates you constantly, drives you
on when things are looking dark and is always encouraging. Jul’s
is as cool as a breeze and plays every ball as if it was her last.
If you’re worried before a game she always has a nice word to
keep you focused. It would be great to see a Donoughmore woman
lift the Brendan Martin cup on Sunday and no one deserves it more”.

And so attentions turn to Sunday and Cork’s first ever senior
All-Ireland final. Having played against opponents Galway in the
national league final back in May, Ashling is fully aware of the
threats they pose but more so the hunger they have to win. “Galway
will obviously be up for winning back to back titles and they
will be out to get revenge for the league final. Obviously league
is different to championship but they don’t have any silverware
yet this season having lost the Connaught final to Mayo and that
will be a driving force for them. They were exceptional in their
semi-final against Dublin and full forward Niamh Fahy is a super
player but we’re concentrating on our own game”.

In contrast Cork’s semi final performance against Galway wasn’t
as aesthetically pleasing. “We weren’t great against Mayo
but unlike Galway we have yet to peak and I believe we will do
so Sunday. Over the last two years we have developed so much as
a team and the bond of a club team now exists. Before it was,she
plays with X club but now its, we all play for Cork”.

You would think the Rebel Treble must be dwindling somewhat in
the minds of the players and even more so the occasion of playing
their first All-Ireland final in Croke Park.

“Watching the camogie winning of course made you realise
what’s in front of us but you have to tell yourself it’s just
another venue. We’re not going to let the occasion get to us.
We have one chance and as someone said, this October 9 isn’t going
to come around again”.

The final training session takes place tonight and the baton is
handed over to the panel of thirty. So when asked is she looking
forward to the game, the familiar friendly smile broadens and
she poignantly replies, “definitely, bring it on”.

NAME: Aisling O’Connor
AGE: 22
CLUB: Donoughmore (Mid Cork)
OCCUPATION: Apprentice Electrician
FOOTBALL ACHIEVEMENTS: 1 National League Division 1 medal, 2 Munster
Senior Medals, 2 senior All-Ireland club titles, 3 Munster club
titles, 7 county titles, 2 U21 county, 1 Division 2 National League
medal, 1 Division runner up, 5 Senior B Munster titles

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