Sport

Bright Young Finn is shining

May 23rd, 2016 6:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

Dressed to impress: Kinsale and Cork GAA star Orla Finn pictured in the new Cork ladies football kit, unveiled by McKeever Sports. The deal between the Rebels and the Armagh-based kit manufacturer will see all Cork teams wear McKeever gear on field, while all of their leisurewear will come from Germ

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Kinsale’s Orla Finn lit up the national league with her skill, speed and flair so Kieran McCarthy decided to find out a bit more about Cork’s in-form hot-shot

 

ORLA Finn has the ladies Gaelic football world at her feet, insists the man who helped shape the country’s in-form forward.

Charlie McLaughlin first saw Finn when he was in charge of Cork’s U14 and U16 teams, and the Donegal native from the small village of Creeslough in the county’s northern edge recognised talent when he saw it.

She was a natural, a star in the making, he recalls, and he’s delighted that she’s now shining bright.

The Kinsale forward was the standout player in this season’s Lidl Ladies National Football League Division 1 campaign, scoring 3-48 as she fired Cork to a fourth title in a row and picking up the player of the match award for her heroics in the final against Mayo at Parnell Park.

Having been in and out of the team over the past few years, Ephie Fitzgerald’s new regime this season handed Finn, in her sixth year on the senior panel, her big chance – and she’s grabbed it.

‘She’s certainly been the player of the league,’ Fitzgerald agreed after he watched Finn kick 0-6 (3f) against Mayo in the league final.

The 24-year-old’s scoring stats have been more than impressive. She kicked 1-9 in the second half alone against Tyrone, after coming on as a half-time sub in Mallow. She rattled over 1-6 against Dublin, 1-8 against Galway, 0-7 in the league semi-final victory against the Dubs, and that’s just a taster from her impressive highlight’s reel.

McLaughlin, a former Cork ladies senior football manager, is not surprised.

‘Orla is the complete team player, so intelligent off the ball, and that’s where games are won,’ he explained. 

‘She has a great first touch, two good legs, great vision, is very composed and is a very unique kicker of the ball. Micheál Ó Croinín is another unique kicker, like Orla – she kicks the ball very fast but is very accurate.

‘Another thing she has which is more important than pace is balance. She can wrong-foot you so easily and glide past you. She’s never rushing, she’s always moving and she has a great body swerve. 

‘Like I said, she’s the complete player, and what’s important too is that she has a great family unit behind her to back her up. She was thinking about packing up last year because she wasn’t getting game-time, but she stayed on, has played extremely well this year and she has a massive future in the game.’

Oh, it’s worth nothing that she takes frees as well, another string to her bow.

Finn, understandably when you consider the success Eamonn Ryan’s teams enjoyed, found it hard to break into that side on a consistent basis. Ryan found a winning formula, he stuck to it and the results speak for themselves, ten All-Irelands in 11 seasons.

When Finn was handed opportunities to shine, mostly as an impact sub, she looked the part. What she needed was a consistent run of games and new boss Ephie Fitzgerald offered her that this year – and she has come of age.

The extra responsibility this former athletics’ star has been handed has brought out the best in her, with Fitzgerald noting: ‘Orla’s movement is brilliant. I don’t think she believes how good she can be. She’s a very humble girl, a very quiet girl in lots of ways. She’s a fantastic talent.’

McLaughlin saw Finn star for Cork in U14 and U16 games, recalling an All-Ireland U16 final when, he says, she kicked 0-13, including points off her left and right feet that ‘Colin Corkery or Maurice Fitzgerald would have been proud of’. That’s some statement.

It took a bit of work to get her in the door, as he explains, but it was worth the effort.

‘On the underage teams that I had her on, she was very shy. We worked on getting her into the Cork setup and it was worth it. I remember U14 and U16 games, they are certain players you’d pay money to watch and she is one of those. She was a star from the start,’ McLaughlin enthused.

‘She can take a team to a new level with her movement. I watched her kick three points from play in the recent league final (against Mayo) and, my God, she was just gliding them over. 

‘It’s lovely to watch her at work, she’ll glide into space with her balance and pace, and that spells danger for any team. She’s outstanding to watch and a massive star of the future.’

He added: ‘She was always one of the top players to work with, so easy to work with and that’s a great sign.’

Nine-time All-Ireland winner and three-time All-Star Nollaig Cleary agrees with McLaughlin that Finn’s future is bright, as she’s stepped it up this year to become a very valuable player for Cork.

When Valerie Mulcahy retired in April, the reigning All-Ireland champions lost a major source of scores, but Finn’s 3-48 in the league, after a slow start, has helped lighten the loss.

‘As far as I remember she came into the panel mid-season and straight away you could see she had talent,’ Cleary said. 

‘She was so dynamic, comfortable on her left and right, and very pacey. It takes a while to make an impact when you come into a successful team and, in fairness to her, she’s been very patient and has waited for her chance, which she’s got this year. She’s stepped up this year and performed.

‘It takes a few years to learn the trade and get that experience that you need. Since a few of us older players have moved aside, she’s stepped up and she’s taking her chance by making such an impact.’

Even her teammates are thrilled to see Finn hog the headlines this season, as Orlagh Farmer added: ‘She really has blossomed this year. It’s all about the opportunity and grasping it.’

Now, the St Joseph’s Boys’ National School, Cobh teacher needs to cope with the new profile her form has earned her. Finn’s secret is out. She might have five All-Ireland senior medals stashed away at home, but this is the year that she has made everyone sit up and take notice. The opposition now knows about this former athlete who excelled in cross-country, 800m, 400m hurdles, long jump high jump and more – but Charlie McLaughin insists she won’t be fazed by any extra attention.

‘I don’t even think she feels pressure or expectation; it’s all natural for her. She’ll keep doing what she does best,’ he said, while Nollaig Cleary added: ‘The next challenge for her is how she deals with being a watched player, which she will be off the back of her great league campaign. 

‘Orla’s performing brilliantly, is full of confidence and she is very hard to mark at the moment – no defender will relish coming up against her in this form.’

If Cork are to defend their All-Ireland title this year, then expect Finn to play an important part. She kicked 0-5 (4f) in the Munster championship win against Waterford last weekend, and the hope now is that this Kinsale ace can transfer her red-hot league form into the championship. 

Charlie McLaughlin believes she will. A star is born, he says, and he should know better than most.

Kinsale’s Orla Finn lit up the national league with her skill, speed and flair so Kieran McCarthy decided to find out a bit more about Cork’s in-form hot-shot

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