Siofra O'Shea lifts the cup after Kerry's league final win. Leah Scholes/INPHO

'It was gutting' - Captain's cruciate setback as Kerry prepare for All-Ireland final

Siofra O’Shea will be forced to watch on for next Sunday’s game against Dublin.

AT FIRST, SIOFRA O’Shea wasn’t overly concerned when she jarred her knee in training with Kerry last month.

It was the weekend after they’d beaten TG4 All-Ireland title holders Meath in the quarter-finals and she was keeping positive.

“I actually got up and walked off,” recalled the Kerry captain of the incident.

“I went for an MRI and I wasn’t expecting to hear that it was a cruciate. The next morning I got the news. It was gutting. I was very disappointed when I heard it. But your focus turns then to the team.”

There was some consolation the following weekend when Kerry, with Danielle O’Leary coming into the team for O’Shea, beat Mayo to qualify for this Sunday’s All-Ireland decider against Dublin.

A fortnight or so after the final, O’Shea will undergo corrective surgery. Unfortunately for the Southern Gaels attacker, it won’t be a new experience because she suffered the same injury on the other leg two years ago.

The great frustration for her, and Kerry, is that she’d just got back to full fitness and appeared to be hitting peak form when the jinx struck again.

In Kerry’s three championship games before the injury, she’d found the net in each of them. She struck a goal in the National League final win over Galway too and, just for good measure, blasted 1-2 when Kerry beat Dublin in the National League, a highly significant win by her estimation.

siofra-oshea Siofra O'Shea in action for Kerry against Dublin. Ben Brady / INPHO Ben Brady / INPHO / INPHO

She shrugs at the suggestion of deep frustration though.

“I’ll be around the panel, I’ll try to make any impact any way I can,” she said. “For the semi-final, I was in the dressing-room beforehand, then just out with the girls on the extended panel. Look, we’ve 36 players on the panel so we’re all looking forward to the games whether you’re on the team, the subs or the extended panel. We all have some bit of a role to play.”

There is a similar shrug when you point out that cruciate injuries are a curse of female field sports.

“There are a few bits of research around the female body and how the hips and knees don’t line up the same as men’s,” she said.

“That’s one theory about it. There needs to be more research done because it’s definitely more prominent in the ladies’ game than the men’s. I think Arsenal women’s soccer team at the moment are doing research into it because they’ve had maybe four in the last season alone. Hopefully something comes from that.”

Cork camogie star Ashling Thompson suffered the injury a few weeks after last year’s All-Ireland final against Kilkenny. She returned to feature as a sub in three games in this year’s championship, culminating in last weekend’s appearance from the bench in the final win over Waterford.

“To see her recovery and how she got back to her best was an inspiration,” said O’Shea. “I’ve been through it before myself as well. To get back last year for the latter stages of the championship as I did and to perform, I know it can be done. I’ll be pushing myself to get back better than before.”

siofra-oshea-scores-a-goal Siofra O'Shea scoring a goal for Kerry against Galway in the Division 1 league final. Evan Treacy / INPHO Evan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

Few teams could absorb the loss of such a key forward but Kerry may just be in a position to do so. Quite aside from the prolific Louise Ni Muircheartaigh, they have a terrific set of forwards

“You saw the impact Danielle O’Leary had in the semi-final against Mayo, she was unbelievable,” said O’Shea, referencing her direct replacement. “We have players who can step up to the mark.

“Especially with the additions we’ve made to the panel over the last year since we lost to Meath in last year’s All-Ireland final. We got in Amy Harrington, she’s been making an impact, you’ve got Hannah O’Donoghue and Fiona Tangney back, great forwards as well. I think this year our panel is probably our biggest strength. I’d be confident in them to take the load.”

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