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'The rivalry adds fuel to the fire but once you're one-on-one, everyone gets on very well'

Some thoughts from Cork and UL’s Eimear Scally, and Dublin and DCU midfielder Lauren Magee ahead of the O’Connor Cup semi-finals.

ALL THE FOCUS on ladies football over the next two days turns to IT Blanchardstown and Abbotstown as the Gourmet Food Parlour O’Connor Cup weekend continues.

Some of the finest players in the country have, and will be in action and representing their respective colleges, vying for the some of the most prestigious titles in the game.

The most elite of the prizes on offer is of course the O’Connor Cup, currently held by UL.

Gourmet Food Parlour O'Connor Cup Captain's Day It's O'Connor Cup weekend. Source: David Fitzgerald/SPORTSFILE

In 2016, UCD ended the Limerick outfit’s bid for three in-a-row, but they stole it back again in Elvery’s MacHale Park last March. One player to the fore that day was Cork forward Eimear Scally, and she’s been making waves in the competition again this year.

UL meet UCC in a repeat of last year’s decider this afternoon (3pm), with DCU and UCD going head-to-head in the earlier semi-final (1pm).

Lauren Magee is one of several 2017 All-Ireland senior championship winners with Dublin who features prominently with the Glasnevin university.

The rivalry between DCU and UL is an undeniable one, and we caught up with both Scally and Magee a few weeks back at the launch of the Gourmet Food Parlour O’Connor Cup.

Eimear Scally (UL / Cork)

Eimear Scally was the name which grabbed the headlines after last year’s final. Her 1-1 was key as she returned to haunt her former college UCC and help UL to a third O’Connor Cup crown in four seasons.

Her second-half penalty was a major turning point, but didn’t come without drama.

After being taken down on a powerful, driving run, the Eire Óg star stood up to take the kick herself but there was some controversy surrounding the award of the goal. The flag was waved but there was much debate as to whether it actually went in or not.
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“It was wide!” she grins, looking back and half laughing as she echoes what people have said to her over and over since that day. “That’ll be on my tombstone like; quote: it was wide.”

She’s smiling now, but admits that it was ‘tough’ to deal with some of the backlash. She handled it accordingly and moved on though. The focus is all on this year.

“This is only my second year in UL but I feel like I’ve been here my whole life,” she explains to The42, when asked about the close bond shared by the college side.

“It’s a family rather than a team. The girls are great. The second I came into the team last year…. Obviously, I was a bit nervous coming in and meeting a whole new bunch of people that I had never met before but they made me feel at home straight away.

“That’s a big thing with UL football. We’re the best of friends and we almost live in each other’s pockets. It’s great that way.”

On the contrary, there are some wicked rivalries between the colleges.

“There’s that bit of rivalry,” she concedes. “But once the kits are off and you’re talking to the girls, you’re one-on-one, you get on very well with them.

Eimear Scally Eimear Scally. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“We’re all just people at the end of the day. It’s good to have that bit of rivalry to add fuel to the fire.

“It was disappointing coming off the defeat there to DCU in the league final. They were very good. Look, championship is another story though.”

And for the HEC competitions to have a sponsor in Gourmet Food Parlour for the first time ever, that’s a huge boost, Scally concludes.

“It’s the same standard as inter-county almost now at this stage. It’s huge, it’s taken very seriously. To have a main sponsor like Gourmet Food Parlour, it’s huge like. It brings that little bit more professionalism to the sport.

“They’re really enthusiastic so it’s great to have that.”

Lauren Magee (DCU / Dublin)

While there is that fierce rivalry between DCU and UL, there’s also an extremely well-established mutual respect between the sides, as Dublin midfielder Magee explains:

“You always want to play the best and you always want to beat the best. Playing UL is one of the toughest matches you’re going to play over the year, even with county.

Eimear Scally and Lauren Magee Scally and Magee in action last month. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“Playing college football is such a high standard, it’s like playing for the county in general. With UL, we’ve a big rivalry but it’s really good.

“To get over the line against them, to win league against them was a big boost but it’s not the finished product. We still have a bit to go to try win the O’Connor Cup.”

Having dominated the competition and won consecutive titles in 2009, 2010 and 2011, DCU have faced a drought of sorts since then.

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They’ve been there or thereabouts, reaching the weekend over and over but haven’t gone the whole way.

With no shortage of inter-county talent in their ranks this year along with the new management of Peter Clarke, Pat Ring and Angie McNally — they’ve guided teams to the Holy Grail before and are in charge of the hugely successful Foxrock-Cabinteely — this could be their time though.

“The last two years, it’s been the same kind of scenario — doing well in the first half and let it slip in the second half,” Magee continues.

“This is my third year playing college football and management have been brilliant all three years, but I think having a different set-up this year might give us an extra boost.

“They have a lot of experience and they’ve a lot of knowledge behind them. I think the dynamic is very good. It’s a good addition to us and they’re suiting our playing style as well.

Lauren Magee Lauren Magee. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“They’re working well with the girls and I think people are really enjoying it. That gives us a boost as well.”

Nicola Ward (UCD / Galway) and Laurie Ryan (UL / Clare)

We also had Nicola Ward and Laurie Ryan on The Ladies Football Show earlier this week, where they echoed much of Magee and Scally’s thoughts on college football.

Ward brought us back to the 2016 O’Connor Cup final where she went head-to-head with her twin sister, Louise, for the very first time while Ryan spoke about the added element of going into a tournament as defending champions.

Both players openly discussed their respective inter-county set-ups and Lidl Ladies National Football League campaigns to date, as well as life off the field and much, much more. You can listen back to or watch the full show here:


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