Will it be fourth time lucky for Mourneabbey in All-Ireland series?

Emma Duffy spoke to Mourneabbey captain Bríd O’Sullivan ahead of Sunday’s All-Ireland senior club final clash with Carnacon. 

THIRD time lucky, some may say.

Well, Cork side Mourneabbey will hope that it’s a case of fourth time as they take to Parnell Park on Sunday for the All-Ireland senior club final.

After consecutive decider losses in 2014 and 2015, and bowing out at the semi-final stage last year, there’s a sense that is it. 2017 could be the year they finally reach the Holy Grail.

The players have said it. They didn’t come back to win a county championship or a Munster title, they’re here for the All-Ireland crown.

And captain Bríd O’Sullivan is first to echo her teammate’s words as they prepare for huge opposition in the form of Mayo kingpins and five-time winners Carnacon.

“It’s probably a bit easier to come back after losing because there’s something driving you forward and there’s something out there that you really want to get,” she said.

“It gets a bit harder every year, dealing with the disappointment and trying to build yourself back up again but we all love playing for Mourneabbey. There’s such a sense of community in Mourneabbey and a sense of pride for playing with Mourneabbey. We love it. We’re just delighted to be back in the final.”

One constant over those past four years has been manager Shane Ronayne.

He’s been involved with the Cork ladies before and in September, guided Tipperary to All-Ireland intermediate glory.

Hoping he can steer the Clyda outfit over the line, O’Sullivan explained: “He’s an excellent manager and all of us as players have so much time for him. He has just put endless work into Mourneabbey over the last four years.

“We were really struggling at even county level to get past the group stages, to get into semi-finals and finals and Shane really turned things around for us when he got involved four years ago.

“We won our first ever senior county final under him and we’ve just gone from strength to strength since then. I won’t deny that there are times when he gets frustrated with us, we get frustrated with him but we won’t get into that!”

Shane Ronayne guided Tipperary to TG4 All-Ireland intermediate glory in September.

The four-time Cork and Munster senior champions’ rise to the top of club football has been remarkable. Back in 2005, they lifted the All-Ireland junior title and they followed suit with the intermediate crown in 2007.

There’s a small group – O’Sullivan’s unsure of how many, but reckons five or six – that have been there since, through thick and thin, and are looking to complete a remarkable treble. To make it three titles across three grades.

“They’ve been involved in building our club in Mourneabbey from the ground up,” O’Sullivan says.

“They were only teenagers winning a junior All-Ireland final. Some of them were only 12 or 13 and then winning an intermediate, most of them were still in secondary school.

“They’ve now grown into our senior players and they’re the people that our younger players look up to. It’s brilliant that they’ve had that experience of playing at that level for so long.”

O’Sullivan, a teacher based in Cork, has been involved with the county set-up over the past few years.

2017, she agrees, wasn’t the best of years by Cork’s standards with just a league title to show for their efforts. The absence from the All-Ireland final was obviously disappointing, but every cloud has a silver lining.

With Mourneabbey in the senior decider, and Kinsale and Aghada both gunning for intermediate and junior glory, it brings back memories of 2003 and the clean sweep across all three grades at national level for Cork clubs. 

“Even though we were absolutely devastated to be knocked out in the semi-final (with Cork), that did have a lot to do with the club success this year,” O’Sullivan continues.

“We had a bit more time to spend with our clubs and I’m sure the girls with Kinsale and Aghada that were involved with Cork would agree that it’s hard to do it all.

“Getting knocked out a bit earlier did give you extra time to spend with your club and maybe that did have a lot to do with the success that Cork clubs have been having this year.”

But there’s plenty of football to be played yet.

Cora Staunton is a big danger to Mourneabbey’s hopes of glory.

60 minutes and Carnacon – who hold a host of names from Cora Staunton to Fiona McHale – stand in the way of them finally getting their hands on the Dolores Tyrrell Memorial Cup.

“They have plenty of experience at club All-Ireland level as well. Over the past 10 or so years, they’ve always been there or thereabouts. Cora’s record speaks for itself, winning her 11th All-Star at the weekend.

“It’s definitely going to be a massive challenge for us but one that we’re willing to face head on.”

And captaining her club to All-Ireland glory, would that be the biggest moment of her footballing career to date?

“Oh definitely, yeah,” O’Sullivan concludes. “We’ve lots of players with lots of experience and I suppose the captain is only a title.

“There’s plenty of players on the Mourneabbey team that even I look up to, used to look up to when I was younger and still do.

“It’s just a great honour for me to be able to represent them and hopefully be able to lift the cup for them on Sunday.”


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