ÁINE Terry O’Sullivan doesn’t need to be reminded how the first half of last year’s county final against Mourneabbey unfolded.
Twenty three minutes in, West Cork were down 4-2 to 0-3, reeling from a Mourneabbey goal blitz and left chasing a game that was effectively already over.
It’s a lesson that the divisional side insists they have learned from as the two biggest names in Cork ladies’ football prepare to battle it out in a county final for the third year in a row.
‘That county final was over in the first half,’ the West Cork captain admitted.
‘We did bring it back a small bit in the second half but it was too much to claw back so we know exactly what could happen if we’re not on it from the first minute on Saturday.
‘We know what they can do if you let them play. If a team like them gets off to a good start and builds a lead then they keep going and it’s hard for the opposition to get back into the game.’
Perhaps, so, West Cork’s brief lapse early in the second half of their recent semi-final hammering of Aghada is just the jolt that they needed ahead of Saturday’s county final. West Cork led 4-10 to 1-4 at half time but switched off for a small spell early in the second half, and that allowed Aghada fire over three points in a row. It was never going to ignite a famous comeback but it was enough to dampen the 9-15 to 1-9 final result.
Afterwards West Cork boss Brian McCarthy commented: ‘Even amongst themselves they’re not happy with it, we can’t switch off like that against Mourneabbey. The girls aren’t happy and that’s a good sign, they know they need to up their performance.’
Áine Terry O’Sullivan agrees with McCarthy’s assessment.
‘We can’t afford a similar lack of concentration in the final, you can’t afford to relax at any stage so it’s an area that we need to look at,’ the Allihies woman said.
‘It’s important that we play for the full 60 minutes in the final and maintain a high standard all through – and we know we are capable of that because we’ve been building through this championship.’
The West Cork team is on an upward curve, the Cork forward points out. They drew 2-10 to 0-16 away against Mourneabbey in their first group game, and it’s generally accepted that West Cork could and should have won that contest but they missed too many chances. Wing forward O’Sullivan scored 1-5.
Next up was the 2-15 to 0-9 win against Éire Óg in Kealkill, and O’Sullivan scored five points (four frees). That was their best performance of the campaign and it’s the one they are looking to replicate in Saturday’s county final. Then came the thrashing of Aghada, with O’Sullivan very influential on the wing as she scored 2-8, while Fiona Keating hit five goals.
‘I think we can take a lot of positives from the three games because we’ve been getting better and better,’ O’Sullivan said.
‘I don’t think the final score in the Éire Óg game was a fair reflection, they were a lot tougher than that score says, and that was probably our best team performance so far because we played well for almost the whole 60 minutes.’
While they want to mirror their work-rate from the Éire Óg game, West Cork know they must be clinical against Mourneabbey in CIT on Saturday – and they showed a ruthless streak against Aghada by scoring nine goals and they could have had more.
‘We probably did miss a few chances against Aghada but we were still a lot more clinical then we had been in the two previous games. Hopefully we can carry that into the final,’ says O’Sullivan, who is one of the leaders of this West Cork pack, along with Cork stars like Martina O’Brien, Libby Coppinger and Melissa Duggan; that’s a very strong spine. They’ll need to lead the charge against Mourneabbey.
‘They are a very physical team, very strong and we know we need to match them. Usually there is little between us and it’s been tight, apart from last year’s final,’ O’Sullivan said.
‘We know we need to stand up and we are well able for that. It will be a few levels up from the Aghada game, we know we won’t have the same time and space on the ball that we have had but we’re familiar with them and we know how they play, so we’ll be as ready as we can be.
‘Look at our younger players too, they have all stood up so far. Fiona Keating had a huge game against Aghada. Meabh O’Donovan started against Aghada and did really really. My own club mates Christina O’Sullivan and Clare O’Shea have played really well. The same for Eve Murphy and Rachel Murphy, and all the young players on our team. We all know what prize is on offer and we know what we need to do to get it, so that’s what we are working towards.’
The Beara woman knows what it’s like to beat Mourneabbey in group games (she scored 3-2 in a 5-12 to 0-13 win against them in 2017) and she knows what it’s like to lose to the reigning All-Ireland champions in county finals (2018 and 2019), and now she’s determined to captain the divisional team to an historic first county senior football title.
The opening quarter, up to the first water break, will be crucial. If West Cork are there or thereabouts, things could get very interesting in CIT.