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'She’s one of our own' - Dublin star a perfect fit for Cork's All-Ireland club champions

2017 Footballer of the Year Noelle Healy is a huge addition to Mourneabbey, who are chasing another All-Ireland crown tomorrow.

A FIFTH ALL-IRELAND final reached in six years, with much of the set-up the very same right the way through — but Mourneabbey have one huge addition this time around.

Four-time Dublin All-Ireland winner and 2017 Player of the Year Noelle Healy.

noelle-healy Dublin star Noelle Healy. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

The reigning All-Ireland champions were boosted by the addition of Healy earlier this year, and all involved have nothing but good things to say about the Dubliner.

An anesthetist working on Leeside, Healy’s potential transfer from St Brigid’s was first reported by The42 in February, while the move was rubber-stamped in early March.

Now, she joins fellow 2018 All-Stars Ciara and Doireann O’Sullivan in the Cork kingpins’ forward line — and is looking to add an All-Ireland senior club title to her decorated trophy cabinet tomorrow.

Mourneabbey are defending the Dolores Tyrrell Memorial Cup against first-time finalists Kilkerrin-Clonberne of Galway — a star-studded outfit themselves — and will be hoping to further put years of hurt and heartbreak to bed.

Shane Ronayne’s side ended a long wait for national silverware last December after previously suffering three painful decider defeats (2014, 2015 and 2017) and a semi-final loss in 2016.

And Healy should have a huge say in how tomorrow [throw-in 5pm, Limerick's Gaelic Grounds, live on TG4] pans out.

doirean Just the three All-Stars: Doireann O'Sullivan, Healy and Ciara O'Sullivan. Source: Mourneabbey LFC Twitter.

“I think she’s just slotted in seamlessly,” Mourneabbey and Cork star defender Eimear Meaney said of her new team-mate, who she’d be well used to facing on the inter-county scene.

“Obviously she knew a few of the girls from All-Star trips and we knew her from playing around the pitch. She’s slotted in perfectly, she’s just added a new dimension to the team this year, I suppose.

“I’m usually cursing her pace running after her but now I’m delighted, I’m like, ‘Give her the ball and go!’ It’s nice to have her on your side for once.

She’s an unbelievable player and she’s a really lovely girl. She’s just slotted in perfectly with our team. She’s had some massive performances for us this year, she’s really added to it so hopefully now going into Saturday, she’ll continue to do so.

Over the past few months, Healy’s parents have become permanent fixtures at Mourneabbey’s fixtures, so much so that there’s a guaranteed ‘Healy Family Tour’ picture on the club’s Twitter account every match.

“They’re brilliant, the support,” Meaney smiles. “They come down from Dublin all the time and she always has really good support.

healy Healy with her parents, Godmother and coach Fionn O'Shea. Source: Mourneabbey LFC Twitter.

mabbey Healy with her parents after a win in October. Source: Mourneabbey LFC Twitter.

healy Source: Mourneabbey LFC Twitter.

“They have made such an effort with everybody in the community and it’s really nice to see them just slotting in so well. They’re Mourneabbey people now, they’ll give out to me for saying that! But they’re one of us.”

Mourneabbey selector, or “glorified supporter,” as he puts it himself, Derry Cronin, echoes Meaney’s words when Healy’s influence is put to him ahead of the showdown.

“One of our own,” he notes. 

But not only that, the 28-year-old has filled a massive void in the team following the departure of their veteran full-back Cathy Ann Stack in the wake of last year’s win.

Stack was part of the class of 2005; one of the ground breakers for Mourneabbey as they won their first All-Ireland club title at junior level. They added the intermediate crown in 2007, so Stack finished up with each and every one of the nine titles available to ladies club footballers — county, provincial and All-Ireland crowns at all three grades.

“Noelle, in one sense she’s been a great addition, in another sense it’s been seamless because our full-back for a good number of years, Cathy Ann Stack, would have retired,” Cronin explains.

“Filling Cathy Ann’s boots would be a big ask to any player at our club. To have an established player like Noelle come in has been great, it has filled a void in our dressing room, which I think would have been almost impossible to fill.

fiona-claffey-and-cathy-ann-stack Cathy Ann Stack (3) in action in last year's final. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“The community have taken to her, she’s one of our own now, it’s great to have her on board in a football sense. The young girls are looking up to her and they can buy in, she’s a great athlete.

We’re delighted to have her and please God we’ll have her for a long time to come.

Ronayne’s right-hand man paid tribute to Stack, and re-iterated just how important Healy’s addition was in a sense of adding excitement to the set-up.

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“Such a presence in the dressing room, such a calming influence on younger players for a good number of years, that you would be concerned, ‘How do we fill this?’

“That’s what I’m trying to say: bringing in an established player like Noelle created and excitement in itself. The younger girls were enthusiastic to train with her. It wasn’t, ‘Oh my God, we’re losing our full-back, what are we going to do?’ It was trying to replace a leader in the group rather than an actual position on the team.

Noelle has filled that role seamlessly for us. The supporters and the club in general have bought into her, and she into them. Look, she’s one of our own. She even has a Cork accent at this stage,” he jokes. 

Cronin has been involved with the six-in-a-row Cork and Munster champions for four years now, and is full of praise for his side.

His enjoyment shines through with every word he utters, and you get a sense that it works both ways from his close bond with Meaney at captain’s day on Monday.

eimear-meaney Eimear Meaney. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“They’re a pleasure to be with really,” he smiles. “I consider my role to be just a glorified supporter. We have great characters on and off the pitch in our group and just to be a part of it is wonderful.

“At ground level so to speak, it’s just about training and being involved. Obviously everyone wants to be in an All-Ireland final, but you don’t start off the year thinking, ‘Oh God if we don’t get to an All-Ireland final, it’s a failure.’

“It’s the little victories along the way, whether it is a championship game or a league game or even just enjoying nights out, it’s about being together.

“Obviously these are the times that you absolutely live for and you love, and you prepare for, but there’s a lot more to the game than All-Ireland finals. But it is great to be there.”

The sense of community is what makes Mourneabbey special, and Cronin — who insists his side are as hungry as ever and have grown an incredible amount since winning their first Cork senior title in 2014 — most definitely epitomises that.

As does the fact that everyone has welcomed Noelle Healy with open arms, and her seamless transition into life at the club.

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About the author:

Emma Duffy

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