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Mourneabbey captain relishing Munster final meeting against old foes

Mourneabbey ladies are looking for a third Munster senior club title today.

Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

WHEN THE MOURNEABBEY ladies football team reconvened for the 2016 season, they knew they had to park the hurt of the previous year before a new campaign could begin.

A second All-Ireland final had come and gone without the silverware coming back to Cork and thoughts about another shot at All-Ireland glory were understandably in their minds.

But they knew they couldn’t indulge those notions yet. And as they look towards a third consecutive Munster final today, team captain Bríd O’Sullivan assures The42 that their focus remains firmly on the provincial championship.

“We kind of spoke about it at the start of the year,” she begins, “and we knew that we were kidding ourselves if we weren’t concentrating on getting out of Cork first and getting out of Munster.”

She added: “I suppose we’re one-third of the way there after getting past St Val’s (in the county final) and obviously it would be in the back of our minds after the heartache of the last two years, but we’re trying not to think about it because you can’t afford to be thinking too far ahead when you’re coming up against such experienced and good sides, so we’re just going to concentrate on today for now and see what happens.”

Today they face the Banner of Clare, a side who they previously defeated in the 2014 Munster final. But O’Sullivan insists that the outcome of that encounter means nothing ahead of their next meeting.

“We did play them two years ago but we aren’t really reading anything into that because we’ve both become very different teams since then. There’s different personnel and things like that but they are an excellent team and they’ve a few girls who had success with Clare this year as well, so it will be interesting alright,” said O’Sullivan.

Since that maiden Munster achievement in 2014, Mourneabbey have collected two more provincial and county championships along with the All-Ireland final appearances. But prior to that, their trophy cabinet lay bare for a number of years.

O’Sullivan explains where the sudden burst of riches came from.

“We won the Intermediate All-Ireland in 2007,” she says, “and I would have been about 14 then. And a lot of the girls who are playing now wouldn’t have been playing then, they would have been children, so after that a lot of the older players went travelling and things like that so it just took a few years basically for us to grow up and for those players who were children back then to be ready for the challenges of senior football.

“We changed our management as well in 2014 and, in fairness, Shane (Ronayne) and Dominic (Gallagher) have really helped turn things around for us.”

A secondary school teacher in Kildare, O’Sullivan has a typically hectic schedule for someone who plays both football and camogie at club level, as well as playing with the Cork senior footballers.

During last year’s campaign, Mourneabbey played three fixtures in one week due to the county final requiring a replay and this year has been another long stretch on the road.

But O’Sullivan has no complaints about the toil involved and the rewards are all worthwhile. Today offers Mourneabbey the chance to secure another one with the ultimate goal tightly stored away elsewhere.

“It’s hard to balance it all but when you’re successful you don’t really mind because you’re enjoying it, so hopefully that’ll last for a little bit longer.”

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