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'It means a lot to some of the girls on our squad' - Cork and Galway to go head-to-head for a worthy cause

The counties’ ladies football sides are facing off in a skills challenge and raising funds for LauraLynn Children’s Hospice this weekend.

IT’S NOT THE Cork and Galway ladies football clash anyone envisaged, but it’s one which should reignite the rivalry, keep players ticking over and most importantly, raise some funds for a very worthy cause.

Before the Covid-19 crisis, the counties were on a collision course to meet in the Division 1 league final — and due to meet in the round-robin stages before that in a repeat of the 2019 final — but they’re going head-to-head in a very different way this weekend. 

poster Source: LauraLynn ladies football challenge GoFund Me/Jen Murphy Sketches.

On Saturday, the Rebels and the Tribe will face off in a skills challenge, and it will act as a fundraiser for LauraLynn Children’s Hospice. Opposing players will battle against each other — and the clock — in pairs, completing a series of challenges with the fastest player earning a point for their team.

“It originally started in the WhatsApp group, we were planning on doing a fundraiser” Cork captain Doireann O’Sullivan told The42 this afternoon. “All the girls just chimed in with different ideas and we settled on this idea of a timed challenge against another county.”

Galway come as opposition mainly due to “connections” between the two teams, and a good relationship forged from All-Star trips and club clashes between O’Sullivan’s Mourneabbey and Kilkerrin-Clonberne. 

“There’s five different skills, one minute on the clock for each skill,” the 25-year-old explains, with videos to be posted on social media throughout and shared by the Ladies Football, Cork LGFA and Galway LGFA accounts.

“The five skills are: right-leg kickpass off the wall, as many as you can in 60 seconds, left-leg kickpass, again with the same objective, as many as you can get in a minute, the third skill is keepie-uppies, fourth is crossbar challenge and the fifth one is press-ups. You’ve four skills and one strength challenge.

“I got onto Tracey Leonard from Galway and she co-ordinated things from Galway’s side. She put their list of girls together for who’s doing what challenge, I put the Cork list together and then all we did was pair them off against each other at random, so everyone has a partner.

Say for example, I’m with [Galway defender] Nicola Ward and we’re doing the press-up challenge. It’s a competition between myself and Nicola, who can get more press-ups done in a minute. If she wins, she gets a point for her county and if I win, I get a point for my county.

“We’re keeping a leaderboard throughout the day as well. Not every challenge will be up on social media because it would be too much, but there will be two or three videos of each challenge and the leaderboard will be updated throughout the day.

“We’re trying to make it interactive, that people actually see the challenges, but at the same time, we have 38 on our panel, we’re not going to put up 38 challenges. We’re just trying to have a bit of craic with it, and bring out the competitive side of both teams –neither of us are going to want to lose!”

doireann-osullivan Cork captain Doireann O'Sullivan. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

The main thing, though, O’Sullivan notes, is the charity they are raising funds for in LauraLynn. With €1,155 raised of the €2,000 target already, both counties are hoping that that amount rises in the coming days for this brilliant cause.

“We decided we wanted to do it for a children’s charity,” O’Sullivan says. “A lot of girls were quite passionate about that. We were originally going to do it for the Mercy but with us picking Galway as our challenge, it had to be a national charity.

“Obviously the LauraLynn charity is topical at the moment, it was on The Late, Late Show and they do excellent work so we wanted to raise money for them. They’re a very hands-on charity, working close with all the people coming into them.

I think a couple of girls actually had people in their families who have used the charity and availed of it. It’s topical in Ireland but as well, it means a lot to some of the girls on our squad.

While everyone is in the same boat with no football expected until later in the year, O’Sullivan and her team-mates are delighted to have this challenge, and others, to keep them ticking over. 

If you think about it now we’ve missed a league final and O’Connor Cup, provincial championships should be kicking off now and that, so it is filling a bit of a gap. We’re all extremely competitive people. I know it’s only a challenge for charity, but at the same time we don’t want to lose.

“I think it was Bríd Stack who tweeted and she was staying there’s pride at stake… no matter what it is, you want to win. We’re playing Galway, obviously we’ve a great rivalry and great respect for Galway. Róisín and Tracey Leonard are probably the best kickers in Ireland so we picked a tough enough opposition.

“I actually didn’t think of that side of things: how much craic we’ve had with it. We’re not able to do any team bonding obviously at the moment, our team bonding weekend was meant to be three weeks ago so this has been a bit of craic, and is getting people talking in the WhatsApp group.

“We’re putting in videos now of us practicing and even doing the draw of who got who… I think [Cork goalkeeper] Lisa Crowley lived with Róisín Leonard in college and they’re against each other. We didn’t do it for the purpose of team bonding but it definitely has helped that side of things as well.”

While the GAA today announced that it doesn’t anticipate any inter-county games being staged before October amid the continued Covid-19 shutdown, the Ladies Gaelic Football Association [LGFA] is yet to outline its up-to-date plan.

Having cancelled the leagues in late March and stating that they would not be completed, the championships’ future remains up in the air — and O’Sullivan accepts that, with health and safety the priority. 

“I think it’s important to take it day-by-day,” the secondary school teacher, who’s working with her students from home, stresses.

“You don’t want to be getting too bogged down in things. I don’t think even the Government themselves know at this stage so there’s no point in us jumping to conclusions or trying to figure out what’s going to happen.

Unfortunately, it is just a waiting game at the moment and look, that’s tough. We’re used to having a goal whether it’s to prepare for a league match or a championship game, we always have something in the back of our minds that we are preparing for. Without that, it is hard to motivate yourself, to stay focused and be as disciplined as we would be if we were in a group training environment.”

She’s getting on with things though, training with her sister and team-mate Ciara, though slightly frustrated as she had been making a gradual comeback to inter-county action before the shutdown.

“Myself and Ciara are training together and Ciara actually joked the other day, she was like, ‘Doireann, I’ve never seen in you in such good condition and we have no football,’” she laughs with a nod to her often early-season injury struggles.

“Look, there is a big picture. My problems are minute compared to what’s going on in the bigger picture. It is disappointing obviously not to have football, but our health and players’ wellbeing and everything is top priority.”

Donations towards the LauraLynn ladies football challenge can be made here.

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Emma Duffy

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