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Cora's focus on Carnacon first, Oz venture second but Mayo decision still to be made

The Mayo star has signed for the Greater Western Sydney Giants, but could still feature for her county next year.

cora Source: www.gwsgiants.com

THE NEWS REACHED Ireland late last night. An article appeared on Australia’s Herald Sun, and started doing the rounds on Twitter.

The headline read: ‘Gaelic football legend joins Giants,’ and there she was in all her glory, donning the orange jersey of the Greater Western Sydney Giants and holding the oval ball.

It came as no surprise. There had been plenty of speculation over the past few weeks, but this was solid confirmation that Cora Staunton was bound for the Australian Football League Women’s (AFLW).

The draft took place when many were sleeping on this side of the world, but we woke up to find out that she was the 46th pick and the deal was done.

She’ll now become the second Irish player to play in the AFLW, the other is Cavan’s Laura Corrigan Duryea who plies her trade with Melbourne FC.

A stalwart with Mayo, 35-year-old Staunton has won four All-Irelands and three league titles in the green and red jersey, and also has 10 All-Stars to her name. In the wake of her side’s recent All-Ireland final appearance, she’s been nominated for her 11th and should she win, it’ll be record-equaling.

It’s been going on for quite some time now, the questioning of when she’ll retire from the inter-county game. And that looks set to continue.

The AFLW, in just its second year, runs from the end of January until the end of March — meaning she could return to the fold upon her return to home soil.

“It’s a very short season,” she told RTÉ Sport’s Darren Frehill earlier today from Australia.

“I’ll move out once the club championship is over, depending on how we do with Carnacon. I’m aiming to be out in the first week of December. It’s a seven-game series, if you get to the final it’s eight games.

Cora Staunton celebrates with Fiona McHale at the end of the game Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“The first round starts at the end of January; it’ll run until the end of March. Once that’s over I’ll be back home again.”

So Mayo fans need not worry? She’ll be back playing?

“I’ve no decision made on retirement and that,” she continued. “I’m obviously coming to the end of my career in football.

“It’ll buy me an extra couple of months to make a decision. I’ll see how the body is come March. I’m not ruling anything in or out at the moment.”

“God knows where it will take me. I won’t be making any decision until the end of March or April when I come home.”

Of course, that’s way down the line. She can’t even turn her focus to her new venture just yet, her club at home is the main priority at the minute.

Cora Staunton and Sharon Courtney Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Earlier this month, she won her 19th title with Mayo kingpins Carnacon and next on the agenda is the provincial final against Kilkerrin-Clonberne on Bank Holiday Sunday.

“I’m back [home] on Sunday morning,” Staunton told MidWest radio earlier today.

“So I’ll be back training, and then off to watch the Balintubber lads [in the county final] on Sunday afternoon in MacHale Park. It’ll be back into it straight away.

“I’ve missed a couple of club sessions alright, but I’ve been keeping myself ticking over. That’s our main focus now. Kilkerrin-Cloberne, a big challenge on Sunday week and it has been for the last number of years. But we’re looking forward to it, and hoping to have another good run with the club this year.

“They’re the ones who have set me up, to get me to where I am today, so of course I owe it to them. My full focus is on them.

“I’m going to put the head down and work hard with club for the next couple of weeks, and when I move over,” she continued on RTÉ.

“This is a whole new challenge and I’m going to have to work very, very hard to get up to the standards of the oval ball. A great challenge for myself.”

On the WAFL decision itself, she says that it’s an opportunity she couldn’t let pass her by.

She has family out here, and plans to spend plenty of time with them when she starts life Down Under: ”From that point of view it was a no-brainer, an opportunity I really couldn’t turn down.”

And on the professionalism aspect, it’s a new step she’s relishing: ”It’s huge.

“Going into the club for the first time yesterday to see the facilities, women’s sport over there — they’re treated as equal with the men. They share the same club and same facilities.

“Obviously, to be a professional sportswoman for a couple of months is going to be huge. Especially.. I didn’t think at my age I’d get this opportunity so I’m going to grab it with two hands and try and play to the best of my ability.

Cora Staunton dejected Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“It will be a huge challenge but us Irish love a challenge,” she concluded, in her interview with the Herald Sun.

Well one thing’s for sure, we’re looking forward to seeing her rise to it.

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Mayo legend Cora Staunton signs professional contract Down Under

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Emma Duffy

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