Tenth All-Ireland Final for Cork's Mary O' Connor

Tenth All-Ireland Final for Mary O Connor
By Mary White



Facing a tenth All-Ireland final on the sacred soil of Croke
Park would be enough to make Sean Ogs head swell – it’s the
stuff of legends as Guinness would say but far from egotistical
notions, what you see, is what you get with dual star Mary
O’ Connor. She’s tasted the good times and the bad. To be
precise, that’s four camogie wins, four losses and one football
win. It’s been 10 years since Mary first stood in Croke Park
at the age of 18 when she togged out for the junior ladies
football All-Ireland final at half forward. 

It was Tyrone who felt the pain that day but under the guidance
of Joe McGrath and alongside such greats as Hanora Kelleher,
Mary Kelleher and former camogie coach Fiona O’ Driscoll,
the outcome was justified. Since, the sport has grown phenomenally
and with it the game itself.

a doubt the pace of the game has changed but the training is no
harder than what it was. It,s just people are looking after themselves
better now with rub downs, diet, water and rest to think about
– there’s no point in being the fittest player if your tired.
With televised coverage people are seeing the skill level. Against
Mayo in the semi Cora Staunton kicked a point from about 40 metres
out and that catches peoples attention. The kicking of the ball
has improved hugely and fitness is exceptionally high”.

Over the last decade she’s experienced the highs and lows of Cork
ladies football, so where has the latest success trend stemmed
from? “Well the players have always been there but the organisation
of our management team has helped tremendously. Just as importantly
I think the players have taken responsibility themselves, club
rivalries were set aside and we’re not afraid of putting in the
long hours to achieve success”.

As a young player the likes of Micky Lyndon and Pat O’ Shea inspired
her but more recently that role has falling to Tyrone’s Peter
an exceptional player and when he comes on you can see the presence
he creates. Just seeing him come on inspires the players around

eldest on the team by three years, the same can be said of Mary,
whose experience has been vital to the Cork set up. “Well
I’ve won and I’ve lost and I’d like to think my experience helps
the younger players on the team. But there’s no point in having
experience if you don’t learn from your mistakes and that’s where
I might help. To be honest I look up to the younger players like
Amanda Murphy. She has a wisdom for the game way beyond her years
and it’s scary to think she¹s only 15 years old. It’s the simple
things she does with no fuss and is so consistent. I just hope
she keeps on playing for as long as she can”.

Which leads me to ask, will she follow in the footsteps of her
hero and bow out any time soon? “There¹s no plans to retire
yet. I’m really enjoying playing at the minute and I’ll only hang
up the my boots when it all becomes a chore. I didn’t play in
the league because I’d a really long year with the camogie and
my club getting to the All-Ireland final last December so I decided
to charge the batteries. I would have been no good to anyone if
I was tired”.

A regular starter in the forward line her short absence has led
to increased competition for her place but that doesn’t bother
her. “I don’t mind if I’m sitting on the bench for the whole
game, if I’ve a medal in my back pocket I’ll be happy. Its a 20
player game now, that was evident in the mens final last Sunday.
Everyone of the girls could be starting but management will pick
the most consistent team in form at the time and thats what you

The hours are ticking away and Galway have no ideas to let the
Brendan Martin cup head to Leeside for the first ever but the
Tribeswomen sharpshooters will have their work cut out.

be interesting to see how their forwards react to our defence.
I don’t think they’ve met tougher backs in the championship so
far and Angela and Rena are excellent form. It’s definitely going
to be a humdinger. Our chances are very good. Galway are the champions
but the girls are really up for it and we know we can do it”.

The journey began a decade ago and going on commitment, sweat
and hours of training clocked up over the years, no one deserves
this All-Ireland medal more. If Cork win, a permanent smile will
sit on Marys face.

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