Ryan Byrne/INPHO Erika O'Shea facing soon-to-be North Melbourne team-mate Vikki Wall.
mixed emotions

'We are very proud but naturally you're disappointed to be losing one of your best players'

Cork manager Shane Ronayne feels ‘a little bit aggrieved’ to be losing Erika O’Shea to the AFLW.

CORK MANAGER SHANE Ronayne says losing star defender Erika O’Shea is “disappointing” but he wishes the “great talent” well in Australia.

“You do feel a small little bit aggrieved,” Ronayne noted at one point at this week’s TG4 All-Ireland ladies football championship launch, though stressed that the Rebels don’t begrudge O’Shea and never stood in her way.

The 19-year-old is set to become the youngest-ever Irish player to feature in the Australian Football League Women’s [AFLW].

The42 first reported that the teenage ace was in line for a move last month, before her absence was confirmed from the Rebels’ championship panel.

It has since emerged Down Under that she and Meath All-Ireland winner Vikki Wall are set to sign for North Melbourne. There, they would link up with Mayo’s Aileen Gilroy.

“It’s disappointing but you can’t… we didn’t stand in Erika’s way,” Ronayne said. “Our only concerns with Erika were her education. She has started her first year of college. She’s very young, she’s only 19. Everyone else over there has a degree behind them, apart from Orla O’Dwyer.

“Orla is an Australian citizen so that helped her, she’s able to do a course over there. We were concerned that way from a lifestyle point of view, from an education point of view. From a football point of view we parked that straight away. We don’t own Erika.”

“She’s fantastic, and she’s a good character as well,” the Rebels boss continued. “She’s a huge loss but we’ve just had to park it.

“When she made her decision she rang me on a Thursday at the start of May. We were meant to be playing Mayo in a challenge game, but we said, ‘Look, there’s no real point in you playing because you’re not going to be there.’ She accepted that and we left it at that. It’s just disappointing but we don’t own her. Our only concerns were for her lifestyle and her education.”

O’Shea will become the first current Cork player to make the move Down Under, with Bríd Stack having retired from inter-county football before signing for Greater Western Sydney [GWS] Giants ahead of the 2021 season.

Stack was one of 14 Irish players to line out in the last campaign, and feelings are mixed about whether numbers will rise over the next few seasons.

Ronayne believes they may, particularly after the announcement of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) last week.

shane-ronayne James Crombie / INPHO Shane Ronayne is in his first year as Cork manager. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

“The new contracts that came out last week, they’re big. Erika will only be on a Tier 4 one, which is $40,000. It is an expensive place to live in. You do have concerns for that.

“But if you can get up to the higher tiers… some of the girls are on higher ones, the Tier 1 ones. But there’s only a certain amount of Tier 1s you can have at every club. It’s exciting for them, they get to live a professional life.

“It’s a brilliant opportunity for them, and hopefully things will work out for her because she’s a great talent. I’ve said to her that the door is open for whenever she wants to come home. Hopefully things will go right for her.”

Asked whether counties should be proud of giving players a platform to move onto professional sport, Ronayne added:

“Definitely. I suppose you do feel a small little bit aggrieved. Her club at home, and the fact that if she wasn’t involved with us, she wouldn’t be seen and she wouldn’t be high profile. We are very proud but naturally you’re disappointed to be losing one of your best players.

“We’d be disappointed because we’re trying to progress things with Cork and get back onto the winner’s podium again. We would love to have Erika do that. When the Dublin girls went over they had their All-Irelands won. That’s a bit of a disappointment that we don’t have Erika to try and push on for ourselves. We don’t begrudge her. We parked the football side of things straight away. We’re delighted for her but obviously we’re going to miss her.”

Ronayne’s Cork face Kerry in this weekend’s Munster senior final; the clash forming a double header with the men’s equivalent between the Kingdom and Limerick at Fitzgerald Stadium.


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