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Dublin: 12°C Tuesday 24 November 2020

'I'm so delighted that it's going ahead because it's one thing that's helping me get through it all'

Cork ladies football star Orla Finn’s hunger for football is back, and she’s delighted to have some normality through the madness.

Cork's Orla Finn launching the Ganzee GAA Official Lifestyle Collection.
Cork's Orla Finn launching the Ganzee GAA Official Lifestyle Collection.
Image: Eóin Noonan/SPORTSFILE

AS A SELF-CONFESSED creature of habit and lover of routine, Cork sharpshooter Orla Finn is delighted to have some semblance of normality back in her life.

The two constants in her life, football and teaching, disappeared overnight in lockdown 1.0 but she’s pleased to have both back, for now at least, through Level 5 restrictions.

The return to club action with Kinsale during the summer came as some respite after a difficult period for Finn, and for everyone else across the length and breadth of the country. 

A primary school teacher to senior infants in St Joseph’s National School Cobh, online teaching was a certainly a challenge, so being back in the classroom — however different it is now — was certainly a welcome development ahead of the new school year.

As is the return of inter-county football after plenty of to-ing and fro-ing, Finn couldn’t be happier — and hugrier. Although question marks remain in some sense, it all gets underway tomorrow, and the TG4 All-Ireland senior championship follows suit as it kicks off next weekend.

“It’s been pretty crazy alright,” Finn nods, reflecting on this unprecedented year. “But sure it’s the same for everyone. It’s been a bit of a strange year but I think everyone’s trying to pull through it the best way that they can.

“Even with inter-county, I’m so delighted that it’s going ahead because it’s one thing that’s helping me get through it all. It’s great to be back at school too and back into that routine as well. It’s great that schools are kept open now and inter-county is able to go ahead in this Level 5.

“I found teaching from home during lockdown was quite hard. I’ve senior infants so there’s only so much you can engage with them online. You’re kind of more engaging with the parents and giving them work and stuff, so it’s great to be back in.

As I say, I do love routine. Things haven’t changed much really for me at the moment when I’m still able to go to work and I’m still able to play inter-county. You’re confined to what you do now at the weekends but I suppose I’m luckier than most in that regard.”

Ahead of the return of inter-county, there were no misgivings for 28-year-old Finn. She really is buzzing to be back, as she stresses over and over, despite uncertainty at times because of local cases — though she hasn’t heard of any in inter-county ladies football circles — and criticism aimed at the higher-ups for proceeding.  

With neighbours and Munster rivals Kerry down as Cork’s first championship assignment on 7 November before they travel to Cavan for another Group 1 showdown the following Sunday, Finn and her side are feeling quietly confident.

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It’s going to be a special and very different winter championship, she says, with winner-takes-all ties in store as just the group toppers advance to semi-finals. She’s well aware with the challenges surrounding Covid too, how it will take full panel effort with positive inevitable at this stage and subsequent stints of self-isolation likely.

But Finn is relishing every second of the resumption, with all hands on deck in the Leesider’s “massive panel” and an opt-out option in place at all times.

“We went through people a bit unsure and stuff a few weeks ago about the championship and if it’s safe to play, but we had a chat between us and people seemed really hungry for it — and that it was really helping everyone get through this time.

Especially during lockdown now, it’s brilliant to have football. I actually feel very privileged that we can still play, just even for for our mental health and everything, it’s great. I think a lot of girls are actually realising how important football is for us. People are really, really looking forward to the championship this year.”

And that appreciation for football has certainly heightened for deadly accurate free-taker — practice makes perfect, she says, with much of her guidance coming from former Cork star and ladies coach James Masters — Finn this year too.

“Definitely,” she assures. “I suppose I’ve been on the go now with the Cork seniors for 10 years. You kind of get to the stage where you’re saying, ‘Will I give it another year? Will I go off travelling’ or whatever.

“But it was during lockdown this year that I really realised how much I loved it and how much I missed playing football. It was great to get back to the clubs during the summer.

“We never gave proper time to clubs over the last 10 years really. You play championship games, but you mightn’t have been able to train with them and make every session so it was lovely to have that this year.”

“It really got my hunger back for football and I’m just delighted that there is a championship going ahead this year,” she concludes. “I know it will be a strange one in the winter but we’re just delighted that it is going ahead and hopefully things won’t change in the next few weeks in that regard.”

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Emma Duffy

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