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Rise to the top! 'First county, first Munster and fingers crossed now, first All-Ireland'

Cork’s Aghada face Monaghan side Corduff in the All-Ireland junior club final on Saturday.

IT’S BEEN A year to remember for east Cork side Aghada.

farmer Emma Farmer.

2017 brought the Ladies footballers’ first county championship title as they won out the junior grade. A piece of history written, a huge goal achieved.

From there, it was bonus territory. A strong Munster campaign saw them reach the provincial decider where they saw off Kerry’s Finuge/St Senans by eight points.

They’d never have dreamed it, captain Emma Farmer admits, casting her mind back through the journey.

A semi-final win over Tuam/Cortoon has Aghada preparing for the All-Ireland junior club final against Monaghan champions Corduff on Saturday.

“First county, first Munster and fingers crossed now, first All-Ireland,” Farmer grins at the launch in Croke Park on Tuesday. “We won’t get too ahead of ourselves though.

“But it is fantastic for the club, it’s a great achievement. No one knows where Aghada is so now this year, they’re like, ‘Oh yeah, that team from east Cork’ because they find it hard to pronounce the name!

“But no, we’re getting our name out there which is good. It’s good for the young ones as well coming through.”

She’s beaming from ear-to-ear. The excitement is building for the big day, and she speaks glowingly of this special group of players.

“We’re very tight,” Farmer continues.

“This last year, we even got tighter I’d say. The younger ones came of age, let’s say.

“We all committed to the year and little did we know back in January that we’d be sitting here today going into a junior All-Ireland final. It’s brilliant.”

Grace Kearney, Aisling Barrett, Valerie Mulcahy and Emma Farmer celebrate Farmer (far right) celebrates winning the All-Ireland with Cork in 2015. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Farmer has been involved with the Cork inter-county set-up in the past, last donning the red jersey in 2016. She certainly has no lack of silverware to show for that.

She’s played college football with Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) and had success on that front too, but this is different. There’s something special about the club.

“It’s top of all of it,” she says, when asked where captaining her club to an All-Ireland final lies in comparison.

“You’re growing up with these girls all your life, you’re playing football with them and they’re your best friends.

“To go into an All-Ireland final with your best friend alongside you, it’s special. It could never happen again, ever. You just have to cherish the moment really.”

Off the field, Farmer is a teacher in St Mary’s High School in Middleton. ‘Just in the road from Aghada,’ she adds.

Interestingly, a lot of her clubmates go to school there too so she teaches them on a day-to-day basis.

“I suppose you just have to separate on and off. In school, I’m their teacher. Outside, I’m their friend.”

With three Cork teams in the All-Ireland club finals across three grades — Kinsale and Mourneabbey contest the intermediate and senior deciders on Sunday — Farmer agrees that it’s no mean feat.

In 2003, there was a clean sweep for Cork clubs at national level and in a year which the Cork senior team failed to reach the All-Ireland final in Croke Park, the extra time has benefitted the club scene.

Laura McEnaney with Emma Farmer Corduff captain Laura McEnaney and Aghada captain Emma Farmer. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“Football is strong in Cork and it will always be strong in Cork as well,” she says.

“The underage is brilliant coming up through. With Mourneabbey, Kinsale and ourselves, the future hopefully is bring for Cork.”

In terms of opposition on Sunday, it’s Monaghan and Ulster kingpins Corduff.

They know very little of them, Farmer notes, but they’re relishing the challenge. They’re focusing on themselves rather than their opponents, and looking forward to the task at hand.

The whole parish is behind them, she smiles. And to lift that cup, to make it a first All-Ireland title to add to their first Cork and Munster crowns, what would it mean?

“Icing on the cake. It would be unbelievable. Absolutely something special. It’d be one of the proudest moments ever in my life.”

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):

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‘I’ll be flying off, please God, with an All-Ireland club medal in the back pocket’

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Emma Duffy

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