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O'Sullivan: Physical edge helping Cork close the gap on Dublin

The Cork star believes they have been guilty of letting Dublin ‘bully’ them in recent seasons.

Cork's Ciara O'Sullivan.
Cork's Ciara O'Sullivan.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

CIARA O’SULLIVAN BELIEVES Cork are taking the right steps in terms of closing the gap on Dublin, who are chasing a fifth straight All-Ireland title this summer.

Dublin beat Cork by five points in the 2020 decider, and the two teams recently played out a thrilling league encounter in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, with the visitors winning by the slimmest of margins on a scoreline of 3-15 to 4-11.

With the game coming either side of wins over Waterford and Tipperary, it represents the only blip in Cork’s league campaign to date, as they prepare for Saturday’s Division 1 semi-final meeting with Donegal in Tuam.

And O’Sullivan, who was yesterday named PwC GPA Player of the Month for May having chipped in with 2-8 across those three game, is confident Cork are getting closer to Mick Bohan’s side.

“I hope so,” O’Sullivan says. “It’s funny, after the match everyone was saying ‘it was a great game and ye gave them a good run, ye went five (points) up, eight down and ye fought back and ye will take loads of learnings from that, etc, and it is only the league.’ And you listen to all that and you are still absolutely just sickened that you lost. It does not make it any better.

“I think it is good that we did feel so disappointed to lose or at least not get the draw but what we were happy with was the fightback in terms of having gone eight points down and coming back into it and being within a point, because in previous years we maybe would not have had that kick and we would have let them win comfortably and that didn’t happen, which was a positive.

pwc-gpa-womens-player-of-the-month-in-football PwC GPA Women’s Player of the Month for May for ladies football, Ciara O’Sullivan (Cork) with her award at her home club Mourneabbey GAA. Source: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE

“In that sense, I would like to think we are getting a bit closer. There is no doubt that they are the standard bearers but I think what was good was the fightback and the way we went at 50/50 balls and not being kind of being physically dominated, which we would have been in previous years. So there definitely was a lot of positives to take from it. As I said, if you could just get a little bit closer to them in every match you play it would be good.”

That gap in terms of the two teams’ physicality is something O’Sullivan has found particularly frustrating.

It’s not even physically in terms of what we’re doing in the gym or strength and conditioning wise,” she explains, “it’s when it comes to the actual match, not being bullied, pushed off the ball easily and stuff. Because we don’t let that happen against other teams and I don’t know why in recent years we kind of half stepped back a bit from Dublin and let them dictate the pace of the game.

“I think that was a good learning for us last year coming out of the final, and bringing it into the league game – to just assert our dominance on them as much as possible and not just wait for them to bring the game to us.”

The opening round league game against Tipperary also represented the first time O’Sullivan – an eight-time All-Ireland winner – had the opportunity to play in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, with the Mourneabbey star missing last year’s historic game against Westmeath through injury.

“This is my 14th year and that Tipp game was my first time playing in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, so it was great. I really enjoyed it. It was unbelievable. The facilities and we were very lucky with the weather both days, it was like summer football so it had a championship feel about it which was brilliant.

I think it is great for Ladies Football to be played in the main stadiums in different counties now. It is great to see the progress because that hadn’t happened a few years ago. It was kind of a big deal for me to be playing in Páirc Uí Chaoimh before I do retire, which probably won’t be that far long now, so it was nice to have that.”

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On the subject of improving standards, O’Sullivan says she would love to see the LGFA officially merge with the GAA and operate under the one umbrella.

“I think there seems to be an appetite among players anyway for that to happen, and I think from my own point of view the main reason for that is probably two-fold; a fixtures point of view and also the clashes that we have seen with camogie as a dual county, and I see Tipperary are in a bit of bother this week again with the camogie semi-final and their relegation (game) in football clashing, which is very disappointing to see.

“So from that point of view I think, you know, if you look at a men’s team they know their fixtures and then know where a match will be played so far in advance and that’s great to see. It’s a bit of certainty. If joining the GAA would give us that bit of certainty of knowing fixtures and knowing where matches are on, I think that would be great and it would mean…like, we were playing in Páirc Uí Chaoimh there, it would mean playing in the better stadiums around the country which would be great.

“If we were under the same umbrella and the GAA and camogie were as well, it would mean not having the clashes that the dual players have had so frequently over the last number of years.”

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Ciarán Kennedy

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