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Hurley: We have grown as a group in the past 12 months

December 1st, 2023 5:30 PM

By Ger McCarthy

The O'Donovan Rossa team that defeated Dohenys in the Cork LGFA JAFC final.

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SARAH Hurley believes the turnaround in O’Donovan Rossa’s fortunes means the Skibbereen club has a fighting chance of reaching this year’s All-Ireland junior football final.

My, how times have changed for O’Donovan Rossa.

It has been over a year since the same panel of players sat dejected in an MTU Cork dressing-room. Naomh Abán’s chastening junior A county final win was richly deserved but a Rossas team that never got going were left with a long winter to ponder what might have been.

The fact this same O’Donovan Rossa group of players has since rebounded to win the Cork JAFC title without losing a game is impressive, to say the least. Add in an unbeaten run to the Munster title plus a convincing All-Ireland quarter-final victory in Scotland and you get a sense that this group is far from finished.

So, what changed in the past 12 months? What is different? What has been the catalyst to turn county final losers into All-Ireland contenders? The team’s centre-back lynchpin Sarah Hurley believes there is more than one answer.

‘I don’t believe there is just one thing but I think we have grown as a group because our friendships are way stronger,’ Hurley explained.

‘Bringing that bond out onto the pitch has made everything so different. I feel as well, because we are such a young team, we have been transitioning from underage to adult for the past couple of years. Physicality has been a big thing for this group, especially transitioning into the adult grade. Some of the younger girls weren’t with us too much last year. It was their first year playing junior. This year, they have really grown into it.

‘To be honest, it is the camaraderie we have, it is unbelievable. We just want it (success) so badly for each other and for our management because everyone is putting in so much effort.’

Holding down the centre-back position in an excellent O’Donovan Rossa defence has helped transform Hurley from her previous attacking role into an effective defender.

That was never more apparent than in her team’s quarter-final win over Glasgow Gaels where they restricted the Scottish side to two goals and no points.

‘The key message from James (O’Donovan) was to go out right from the start and just give it everything,’ Hurley explained.

‘That determination really showed in the first ten minutes. They only got one score in the first half and one in the second.’

A third-year University of Limerick psychology student on placement in Limerick City Council, Hurley is under no illusions as to what reaching an All-Ireland final would mean.

‘Unreal, it would be absolutely unreal!’ Hurley beamed. ‘I don’t even know what more to say.’

No more words are needed. Hurley and her teammates know what they must do to overcome Wexford’s Gusserane and achieve the goal of reaching an All-Ireland final.

That dream could yet become a reality.

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