KIERAN McCARTHY caught up with Cork goal machine Áine T O’Sullivan ahead of Saturday’s clash with Mayo
ÁINE Terry O’Sullivan has been making up for lost time these last few weeks.
She’s been in ominous form.
In three Cork ladies senior football championship games for West Cork, the in-form forward racked up 6-7 – 3-2 v Mourneabbey, 1-4 v Bride Rovers, 2-1 v St Val’s – and she took that goal-den form into the inter-county scene, too.
In Cork’s 6-19 to 1-10 destruction of Galway in a TG4 All-Ireland ladies football championship quarter-final, the Allihies woman (23) weighed in with 1-2 in a Rebel full-forward line that amassed a whopping 3-13; Orla Finn hit ten points, Eimear Scally finished with 2-1.
So, with an All-Ireland semi-final against Mayo this Saturday in Cavan (4.45pm, TG4), a season that started so slowly has quickly gathered pace as we race towards the business end.
In this form, O’Sullivan will have a big role to play in the weeks ahead.
‘I missed most of league,’ she explained.
‘I was back for the semi-final of the league but I wasn’t involved at all before that.
‘I was doing a masters this year and we had a lot of evening lectures. One of them was on a Wednesday so I was missing the Wednesday training with Cork. During the league it was training once on a pitch on a Wednesday and there was a match then at the weekend so I decided to focus on the masters.’
Two weeks ago O’Sullivan handed in her masters in e-business to UCC, so that’s one box ticked, but missing out on the start of the season hasn’t held her back.
She didn’t play in the league semi-final win against Dublin and came on in the 56th minute of the final against Donegal – but she was back in her familiar full forward role for the Munster championship opener against Waterford in early June, scoring 1-2 in the shock 3-11 to 1-11 loss.
She started at number 14 again (and scored another goal) in the defeat to Kerry two weeks later, a result that sent the Rebels into an All-Ireland qualifier against Monaghan, a game they won as they regrouped and bounced back.
That win against the Farney women, where she scored one point, was that rare game when this physically strong full forward didn’t rattle the back of the net.
In three of her four games for Cork in this championship she has scored a goal and she has six goals in three senior county championship matches for West Cork: she’s a goal machine. (In fact when she made her senior Cork debut against Meath in August 2015, she hit 3-5.)
Not only that, she’s getting better.
‘Áine is well able to rack up the scores but she’s also developed her overall game a lot,’ explained Brian McCarthy, West Cork ladies football manager.
‘She’s only 23 so she’s still young but she’s developed into a leader in our forwards. She’s able to bring other forwards into play and her vision to be aware of what’s going on around her is getting better all the time. She can score but she can do a lot more as well.’
No wonder McCarthy was smiling when Beara players linked up with the West Cork ladies team this season, and they have a county semi-final to plan for in a couple of weeks.
Before then O’Sullivan will look to maintain her strong form in Saturday’s All-Ireland semi-final against a Mayo team that surprised Donegal in the quarter-finals. And she feels getting the chance to play with West Cork this year has been a big help.
‘It’s great to be playing the bigger teams in Cork over the last few weeks and it all helps because we’re playing top-quality games against very good teams – that can only be a good thing,’ she explained.
‘It’s good news for Cork too because there are a lot of West Cork girls on the Cork panel and we are well used to each other at this stage.
‘With Beara we haven’t had the best year, we’re down in intermediate now, but with West Cork the standard is much higher and we’re playing against the best teams in the county. At senior championship level you need to be that much fitter and sharper.’
That fitter and sharper O’Sullivan can only benefit Cork but she admits their Munster championship was far from ideal, as they relinquished their title after losses to Waterford and Kerry.
‘We were very disappointed with our Munster championship form,’ she said.
‘I wouldn’t say we were worried or concerned but we all knew it wasn’t good enough and that we had to do a lot better.
‘In both games we only played for 20, 25 minutes, it was just in patches and we got punished for that.
‘We knew we had a lot more in us and we worked hard to get back on track – and that’s what we did against Monaghan (winning 0-14 to 1-10 in the qualifier). We had to grind out that win.’
Then came the 24-point hammering of Galway in the quarter-final as O’Sullivan, Finn and Scally ran amok; they hit top gear and looked sensational.
‘The Galway game was our best game yet together, it just clicked in the attack and we linked up well. When you have Doireann and Ciara (O’Sullivan) in the half-forward line and Orla and Eimear in the full-forward line it’s an attack full of scores and we’ll need them all on Saturday.’
Mayo, she says, will be a huge test, but O’Sullivan is ready for whatever the Connacht side throws at the Rebels.
‘I have been in the full forward line for the last couple of years so it’s pretty much the same – but you have to adapt to the different teams you’re playing,’ she said, and with her confidence high at the moment, the Beara woman is counting down the hours until Saturday.