JOHN Cleary won’t entertain any talk about the potential four-in-a-row.
There’s been no mention of it in the Cork camp ahead of Sunday’s All-Ireland final in Limerick and neither is he thinking about it in his spare time.
‘There is no talk whatsoever of a four-in-a-row,’ the Castlehaven man says, as Cork minors look to continue their dominance of the All-Ireland ‘A’ football grade, having bossed this grade in the previous three seasons.
‘For the bunch of girls here, what happened last year doesn’t matter. And it doesn’t matter to me either.
‘We’re just taking this as one more game and we want to get over the line.
‘There is nothing about the past, it’s about this group trying to win an All-Ireland.’
To complete the four-in-a-row, and keep the All-Ireland title in Cork, Cleary’s young Rebels need to beat Galway this Sunday, a repeat of last year’s final that Cork won handily, 5-11 to 1-4. There won’t be any repeat of that one-sided contest this weekend, Cleary warns.
‘Last year we played them in the final and we won easy enough in the end – but they had a super U16 team last year, one of the best U16 teams I have seen. Eight of those started their semi-final against Cavan,’ he points out.
‘They will be more formidable this year, we are expecting a big challenge, it will be a titanic battle, but hopefully we have the hunger and enough in the tank to get there.’
What Cleary feels is driving the class of 2018 is their hunger and determination. On the way up through U14 and U16, this group didn’t enjoy much success – but they have that winning feeling this season.
Cork beat Kerry 1-12 to 2-8 in the Munster minor final, their ninth consecutive title, and then accounted for Dublin 5-15 to 2-11 in the All-Ireland semi-final.
Eight of this team were involved in last year’s All-Ireland final success – goalkeeper Sarah Murphy (Bride Rovers), Katie Horgan (Knocknagree), Beara’s Clare O’Shea, Sarah Leahy (Aghada) and Kinsale’s Georgia Gould in defence, midfielder Ciara McCarthy (St Valentine’s), and Skibbereen’s Laura O’Mahony, Eire Óg’s Emma Cleary and Bantry Blues’ Rachel Murphy in attack. That experience is crucial, Cleary says, as it will help balance out nerves in players heading into their first All-Ireland final.
‘What we do is approach it as just another game,’ the Cork manager explains.
‘There are consequences after it but it’s the same goalposts, the same ball, same amount of players inside the white line like when we played the first round against Tipperary,
‘The key is to bring it back to a game of football, and to try and enjoy the occasion. What we are there for is to play a game of football.
‘Some girls are bound to be nervous but you’d hope the majority will handle the occasion. We have eight of the starting line-up from last year so at least they have the experience of this.’
Cleary also feels this is a very balanced team, more so than in recent years. In the Munster final his daughter Emma Cleary scored 1-9 and Beara’s Clare O’Shea was the player of the match, while against Dublin it was Courcey Rovers’ Fiona Keating that hit the headlines with her hat-trick in a 3-2 haul.
‘This year maybe we are a bit more balanced than in other years,’ he says.
‘In other years we have four or five stars, the Saoirse Noonans, the Eimear Scallys, these type of players, whereas this year we have a more balanced team. This team works very hard. They hadn’t success at U14 or U16 level so there is a fierce hunger there to win an All-Ireland.
‘Beating Kerry in the Munster final was a huge achievement for these girls because Kerry would have beaten them at U14 and U16 over the years.
‘We’ve put in a huge effort to try and win this All-Ireland. We have one more step to go, it won’t be easy but we’ll give it our best shot.’
There’s plenty of West Cork interest in this Cork minor panel and along with Clare O’Shea, Laura O’Mahony, Rachel Murphy, Georgia Gould and Fiona Keating, Kinsale’s Jennifer Murphy, Lucy Coakley and Eve Murphy of Bantry Blues, and Sophie Cronin of Gabriel Rangers are also involved, while Anne O’Grady of Bantry is a a selector. Roisin Ní Chorcora of Naomh Abán and Katie Dineen from Macroom are also on the panel.