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Dublin: 11 °C Tuesday 18 June, 2019
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Family Affair: The four Cork sisters hoping to share an All-Ireland win together

“The fight for getting the gear organised has started already,” Cork captain Ciara O’Sullivan said.

Mourneabbey's Ciara O'Sullivan is captaining the Cork ladies in 2015.
Mourneabbey's Ciara O'Sullivan is captaining the Cork ladies in 2015.
Image: Paul Mohan/SPORTSFILE

IT’S NOT UNUSUAL to see siblings line out alongside each other on the biggest stage in Croke Park.

But when captain Ciara O’Sullivan leads Cork into Sunday’s All-Ireland ladies football final, it will be a real family affair — with three of her sisters also in the matchday squad.

Doireann starts at corner-forward against Dublin while big sister Róisín and goalkeeper Méabh, the youngest of the four, are named among the substitutes.

“It’s a big family occasion and the fight for getting the gear organised has started already,” O’Sullivan said.

Everyone asks what it’s like in the build-up and that’s all I can think about — trying to get the gear, and everyone making sure they have their gear.

“I suppose we are lucky in having four of us involved, everyone knows what it’s like the week coming up to the final and everyone is equally nervous, so I think it is good to be surrounded by that.”

With both parents heavily involved with Mourneabbey, the O’Sullivans always seemed destined for a life in GAA. When the north Cork club clinched the county title last year, it was Ciara who was given the honour of captaining the most dominant side in the history of ladies football.

“It’s probably harder for mam and dad because when you are involved you are caught up in it, and playing you can do something about it,” O’Sullivan explained.

“Particularly when you are playing you are kind of caught up in it and you can do something about it. I think it’s a lot harder to watch and not be able to do anything about it.

They will be very nervous, but we won’t think about them until afterwards.

A win on Sunday would see Ciara collect her seventh All-Ireland medal but it was Celtic cross number six, won in stunning circumstances, that was the most unlikely yet.

Cork trailed Dublin by 10 points with 20 minutes to play in last year’s final and, invincible for so long, it seemed inevitable that they would lose an All-Ireland decider for the first time in the county’s history.

The comeback that they produced to cruelly deny Dublin still boggles the mind. Did they always believe that they would turn things around?

“I’d like to say that we did, but in reality we didn’t,” O’Sullivan said.

When you are 10 points down on the biggest day in ladies football of the year, and you’ve trained so hard all year, and this is what you’ve worked for and you’re starting to realise that it’s becoming nearly embarrassing being 10 points down at that stage, all you’re trying to do is bring the score back and make it a bit more respectable.

“I think that is what we started to do at the start and then as each score goes over you start to think, ‘Maybe we do have a chance.’ That grew and the crowd played a big part in driving us on as well.

“But with 20 minutes to go and 10 points down, I don’t think anyone thought we were going to come back, including ourselves probably.”

Cork’s success under Éamonn Ryan is already without precedent, the history books creaking under the weight of their nine titles in the last 10 seasons.

Worryingly for every other county, and for Dublin most immediately, their appetite is as insatiable as ever.

“The one thing you’d have to say is Éamonn’s trainings never get boring. Everything we do is very simple, but it’s at a massively high pace.

“I think that’s the way he trains us and I think it has stood to us.

He is brilliant to be fair. We are very lucky that he came on board 11 years ago when he did and has stuck with us for so long because Cork football definitely wouldn’t be where it is without him.

“Every player that is on the panel, or playing football at that level, is very competitive and I think he brings that out in everyone.

“You are being competitive to stay on the first 30, to stay on the first 15, to be in the first five coming on, so there’s obviously an element of competition and I think Eamonn himself is very competitive and he doesn’t like losing either.”

Long may it last.

“I suppose he enjoys it so much and he always says that’s why he’s staying,” O’Sullivan added.

I heard him interviewed last week and he said, what else would he be doing at his age?

“It’s great for him to have that ability to be able to train us and we definitely would be lost without him.”

One change for Dublin, while Cork include 6 players chasing a 10th All-Ireland title

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Niall Kelly

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