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Dublin: 18 °C Monday 23 July, 2018

'I threw my laptop across the room for the last 30 seconds of the league final'

Cork captain Ciara O’Sullivan watched her side win the National League while on her travels in South America.

Ciara O'Sullivan in action for Cork during the 2015 All-Ireland final.
Ciara O'Sullivan in action for Cork during the 2015 All-Ireland final.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

CORK’S CIARA O’SULLIVAN knew she needed a break this year.

She had almost 10 years of inter-county football in the legs at that point, and was prepared to step away from the panel for the season.

A two-month trip to South America beckoned following the end of a three-and-a-half year training contract as an accountant, and the two-time All-Ireland winning captain informed the Cork management of her plans.

Ephie Fitzgerald and the backroom team offered her the option of rejoining the fold on her return, and on reflection, she’s glad that the door was left open to her.

Speaking to The42 at the launch of the 2017 TG4 Ladies All-Ireland Football Championships, she said:

“Ideally, I would have taken the break in January or February if my contract had been up then but I had to wait until the end of April.

It was great to get away but I did miss it a bit, the girls and the craic more so than actually playing football or going training and stuff. You would miss it. It was nice to get a break too because this is my 10th year with Cork and I never went on a J1 or anything.”

O’Sullivan tried to squeeze in some fitness training while travelling through Colombia, Peru, Argentina and Brazil, and she kept abreast of her team’s progress in her absence.

The first game she missed was the Lidl Ladies National League Division 1 final against Donegal, which Cork shaved by one point.

Doireann O'Sullivan lifts the league trophy Doireann O'Sullivan lifts the trophy following Cork's win in the League final. Source: Tom Beary/INPHO

Her sister Doireann deputised as captain for the day, and O’Sullivan checked in on her younger sibling to offer some advice in the days leading up to the game.

It was a tightly fought contest throughout, and O’Sullivan struggled to hold her composure from behind the laptop screen.

“That was probably the hardest one to miss because I had been involved right up to the semi-final. I was able to watch that one on my laptop because it was on TG4.

It was so nerve-racking because it was so close. I ended up throwing the laptop across the room for the last 30 seconds. But I think that was a great win.”

O’Sullivan tracked Cork’s Munster championship campaign on Twitter, where they lost out to Waterford and Kerry, meaning they would not be contesting a senior Munster final for the first time in over a decade.

The Mourneabbey player admits that it was strange for her side not to feature in a provincial decider, but pointed out that Cork are no strangers to taking the qualifier route.

This year, the qualifiers has brought them to a fixture against old rivals Monaghan in Tullamore later today.

“We would have been used to being in a Munster final but a lot of the time, we’re used to being in a Munster final because there were no other teams other than us and Kerry, so we automatically qualified.

“But even the game last year against Waterford was a very tough game, so Waterford and Kerry are both very good teams.”

“We didn’t win Munster but we didn’t win the Munster final a few years ago and had to go through the qualifiers as well, so it’s not the first time to take this route.

She added: “I was able to watch both of those games back after we lost and we could have no complaints on the day, they were the better team. I think we just have to take a few lessons from that and bring it into the Monaghan game.

It was difficult because you know how disappointed the girls would be feeling. So, it’s more disappointing for them because they’ve been putting in all the work and all the training. The only saving grace was that while we were knocked out of the Munster championship, we still had the All-Ireland series to try and learn from that.”

Cork’s disappointment in the Munster championship was compounded by some major losses in personnel.

Seasoned All-Ireland winners Rena Buckley and Briege Corkery are unavailable for selection this season, while stalwart defender Deirdre O’Reilly announced her retirement from inter-county football earlier this year.

The drop-off has naturally sparked debate of Cork’s potential demise this season, following a decade of almost uninterrupted dominance that has yielded 11 All-Ireland titles.

O’Sullivan concedes that the losses are far from ideal, but insists that the panel remains strong and is focused on defending their All-Ireland crown.

Eimear McAnespie with Orla Finn Orla Finn holds off a challenge from Eimear McAnespie during the 2016 TG4 Ladies All-Ireland football championship semi-final between Monaghan and Cork. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Overcoming a repeat of last year’s All-Ireland semi-final against Monaghan (Throw-in 3.15pm, TG4) is step one.

“Obviously, losing players of their calibre, you’d prefer not to. But it’s the nature of sport, nobody’s career goes on that long. I think we’ve been very lucky in Cork, we’ve won the last two All-Ireland minor titles and we’ve had two or three coming through all the time which keeps the conveyor belt going.

They are massive losses but we would be hoping come championship knock-out time that we’ll have a few of the other players (that) would step up and try and fill those boots a bit.

“Nobody wants to go out this early in the championship. I suppose nobody wants to go out at any stage, but particularly this early.

“We’ve had great battles with Monaghan over the last few years, they’re an excellent and very fast team.

“It’s going to be a very tough match but I suppose, that’s what it’s about, everyone wants to be playing knock-out football, so we have to give it our all now.”

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Do you agree with the man-of-the-match winner from yesterday’s gripping hurling semi-final?

 ‘I had to take three months of doing absolutely nothing which was horrendous’

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