Eimear Scally driving through for Cork in the 2018 All-Ireland final. Oisin Keniry/INPHO
Moving On

Cork double-header 'like a championship game' and avoiding video of All-Ireland defeat

Cork’s Eimear Scally has moved on from that heartbreaking defeat to Dublin as she looks forward to the O’Connor Cup this weekend.

A FEW MINUTES of last year’s All-Ireland final defeat to Dublin was about all Eimear Scally could stomach during one of Cork’s video analysis sessions.

This was unusual territory for both Scally and the Cork team.

At just 22 years of age, this was her first defeat in an All-Ireland decider after previously featuring for the Rebel county on victorious days in Croker.

But she’s not letting that five-point defeat disrupt her 2019 season. After allowing herself to feel “mopey” in the aftermath of the game, she decided it was time to move past it.

“I kind of tried to push it aside,” she told The42 at the Gourmet Food Parlour O’Connor Cup Captains Day recently.

If I saw any pictures of girls with the Dublin jersey on, you’d just kind of scroll past it.

“It’s impossible to avoid it but you just have to stomach it. It is disappointing and you put so much time into your sport that you have to be disappointed over it but at the same time, you can’t be talking about it for months after.

“I think you just kind of have to have that to fuel you for the following year.”

The Cork team dejected after the game Disappointed Cork players after losing out to Dublin in Croke Park. Oisin Keniry / INPHO Oisin Keniry / INPHO / INPHO

Cork have experienced a somewhat mixed Division 1 campaign so far in the National League after suffering two defeats from four outings.

The second of those losses came against Tipperary as part of a double-header with their male counterparts in Páirc Uí Rinn last month.

That fixture was initially pencilled in for Páirc Uí Chaoimh where the 11-time All-Ireland champions were set to make their first competitive appearance at the venue.

But those plans were scuppered when it was announced that the redevelopment of Cork’s main county grounds will cost an estimated €95.8m, meaning that the double-headers would have to diverted to Páirc Uí Rinn instead.

Selector James Masters previously told The42 that the players were thrilled to keep their double-headers with Cork footballers despite losing out on the Páirc Uí Chaoimh experience, and Scally echoes that view.

A general view of Pairc Ui Chaoimh Páirc Uí Chaoimh (file pic). Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

“It was unfortunate we didn’t get to play in Páirc Uí Chaoimh but Páirc Uí Rinn is brilliant. There’s maybe that bit of a better atmosphere anyway, just the fact that it was a smaller stadium.

I was saying to the girls beforehand that it actually feels like a championship game. Getting ready for the game in Páirc Uí Chaoimh and heading up together [to Páirc Uí Rinn].

“Getting to walk around the pitch and having the kickaround beforehand. Playing in a pitch like that does raise the importance of it that bit more.

“A couple of the younger teams across Cork came out to support us which was lovely. It’s great seeing them there and you want to be a leader for them. As much as we were looking up to people when we were younger we want to be an advocate for them.”

Just over five months after that All-Ireland final defeat to Dublin, Scally is already facing into another major fixture as she prepares for an O’Connor Cup semi-final with UL this week.

The 2017 winners recently defeated the reigning champions DCU on the way to the semi-finals, with the Dublin college now facing NUIG in a shield final.

That victory over DCU will surely have brought a bit of extra satisfaction to UL given that they lost their O’Connor Cup crown to the same opposition in last year’s final.

This is a time of year when players involved in both college and inter-county teams can experience bouts of fatigue due to their hectic training schedules.

Scally admits that she sometimes feels “mentally drained” by the combined workload and was grateful to have a two-week break over Christmas where she didn’t have football appointments every day of the week.

But she quickly points out that the crossover period between college and inter-county football is quite short. 

UL are not overly familiar with their O’Connor Cup semi-final opponents Queen’s University, who they will take on in Abbotstown on Friday.

But Scally appreciates that anything can happen in college football.

“Since I’ve come into UL there’s always been a good team,” said the third-year Health and Fitness student.

It was extremely disappointing to lose out to DCU in the final last year. There’s going to be nothing between the teams in O’Connor Cup.

“I really enjoy College football. It’s just getting to play with girls for the short few months from different counties. You’re hanging out with them during the week and going out to play a bit of ball. It’s always enjoyable.

“Our group was very tough. It’s completely open and I suppose that’s the way it is with college football every year.”

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