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'The fairytale ending. Not that she's ending but it's great for her to go on a high'

It was the perfect parting gift for Cora Staunton as she captained Carnacon to their sixth All-Ireland senior title yesterday.

AS THE FINAL whistle sounded in Parnell Park yesterday, Cora Staunton fell to the ground. Fists clenched, looking to the sky. They’d done it again.

Cora Staunton at the final whistle Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Carnacon had won the All-Ireland senior club championship following a two-point win over Cork side Mourneabbey.

15 years since Staunton captained them to their first All-Ireland title in 2002, she took the reins again and led them to their sixth.

While the crowd who travelled from Mayo took to the field to congratulate their heroes, Staunton was hurried up the steps of the stand for the presentation of the Dolores Tyrrell Memorial Cup.

She was in demand.

After her speech, the team headed down to the pitch for photos with the cup and the usual preceding affairs but the captain was nabbed into the press box for media duties.

There was a radio interview to be done but it had to be quick. Surely she could hardly concentrate with cheers of ‘Cora, Cora, Cora’ from her teammates, waiting patiently for the 28th member of the panel to join the celebrations.

Stopped for selfies and photos galore with fans both young and old on route, she finally reunited with her side for a few group pictures before being stolen away again.

“It’s been a long year,” she smiled afterwards surrounded by a small group of reporters.

“It was a tough end to the season with Mayo so it’s nice to come back to your club and go this length.

Erina Flannery celebrates with the cup after the game Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

“It’s hugely special. This (club) is where you start football as a young child growing up. You harbour hopes to do well with your club.

“Since I was 16 we’ve been winning titles, whether that’s county or Connacht or All-Irelands with Carnacon. It’s well documented. We won our 19th county title this year. 16 out of 19 in Connacht and to win our sixth All-Ireland is huge.

“As a young child growing up, you don’t expect to win that much with your club. It’s been a four year gap since we won an All-Ireland so it’s huge for a small area in Mayo.

“We’ve huge representation on the Mayo team and it’s a credit to the club that we continue to win for such a long spell.”

Two or three questions in and the chat of Australia inevitably rolls around. Staunton flies out on Tuesday to link up with Greater Western Sydney Giants in the AFLW.

“I haven’t had much time to think about it,” she continues. “I’m not even thinking about it now.

“I suppose I’ll actually be on the flight and it’ll all be happening then. I’ll have time to sit down on my own and think about it.

“It’s huge to go now with a club All-Ireland in my back pocket. I’m happy going off now.”

Cora Staunton with Cathy Ann Stack, Ciara O’Sullivan and Ellie Jack Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Due to return to home soil in mid-April, she won’t miss a huge pile with the club.

Although she’s unsure of what her future holds in a Mayo jersey, she insists that she’s committed to Carnacon for as long as her body keeps going.

“I’ll certainly be involved with the club for the next however many years I’m able to play football. I’ll be helping out in some aspect.

“Whether I’ll come back and play with Mayo, I really can’t tell. I don’t know what the next four months physically is going to do to my body. It’ll either do wonders or it won’t!

“(In April) I’ll see what my body is like, what my mind is like and what I want to do for 2018.

“I’ve missed one league in the 23 seasons I’m playing with Mayo so it’s probably no harm for the girls that that happens. Please God when I come back they could be in a league semi-final or a league final and I’ll take it from there.

“My body has been struggling to cope for the last number of weeks with niggles and stuff so it’s a challenge going out there. But hopefully being in a professional environment, not having to work, I’ll have plenty of time to recover and work with physios.

“I could be stronger or I could come back and my body will be in bits. I really don’t know. I’m looking forward to it.”

Speaking to Jerome Quinn for the LGFA afterwards, the 35-year-old added:

“Today is not about me, it’s not about Australian Rules. It’s about Carnacon. It’s about the girls and us winning our sixth All-Ireland title.”

And she means every word of that.

Cora Staunton and manager Beatric Casey Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

Beatrice Casey, joint manager of Carnacon alongside Jimmy Corbett, has been there every step of the way with Staunton.

The perfect parting gift as she sets off on her travels?

“Couldn’t have asked for better,” Casey told The42 afterwards, finding two minutes to reflect on the match surrounded by family, friends and other well-wishers.

“The fairytale ending, you know. Not that she’s ending or anything like that but it’s great for her to go on a high and to have her All-Ireland medal in her back pocket.

“She’s off to Australia now on a new adventure but hugely, hugely fantastic.”

Flying off to Sydney on Tuesday, there’s plenty of time between now and then for celebrations and farewell in Carnacon.

As the woman of the moment said herself at the end of her speech:

“For the rest of ye now, there’ll be a party ’til Tuesday in Carnacon so everyone’s welcome!”

And a party until Tuesday there will be.

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

Mayo stars shine as Carnacon crowned All-Ireland senior champions for the sixth time

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