ORLA Finn is looking forward to another crack off arch rivals Dublin in this Saturday's Lidl National League Division 1 final at Croke Park (7.30pm throw-in).
The Kinsale forward has been in sparkling form again this year and played a key role in helping her county overcome Donegal in the recent semi-final. A 5-10 to 3-13 defeat of the Ulster side in Tuam included 1-8 from Finn.
So how has the Kinsale sharpshooter managed to maintain such a high level of performance in a squad missing some of their most experienced players since the start of the campaign?
‘It all just boils down to work-rate, really,’ Finn told The Southern Star.
‘That’s the one thing Ephie Fitzgerald sets out for us at the start of every game. Every player must work hard and have the right attitude. As a team, I believe Cork is improving with each game this year. Hopefully we can take that effort another step forward in the national league final against Dublin.
‘Last weekend’s performance and victory over Donegal has brought us on an awful lot. That Donegal game was very physical and fast-paced. It will really stand to us going forward and into the All-Ireland championship as well. I’m just delighted we made that extra step and got into a national league final. The more competitive games you get coming up towards championship the better.'
The win over Donegal included Finn’s highest return of the season in which she contributed 0-3 against Tipperary, 0-7 (7f) against Dublin and 0-8 (7f) versus Waterford. What makes last Sunday’s player-of-the-match’s form even more impressive is the fact Finn is playing in a new-look full-forward line since the start of the 2021 season.
Áine Terry O’Sullivan and Doireann O’Sullivan’s injury absences coupled with Saoirse Noonan signing for FAI Women’s National League club Shelbourne means Cork have been experimenting with the likes of Sadhbh O’Leary, Katie Quirke, Bríd O’Sullivan and Emma Cleary.
‘It just shows what talent we have and the quality of players coming through for Cork,’ Finn stated.
‘Sadhbh (O’Leary) is an example of someone that has really stood out for us this year. Her confidence is much higher than the last few years and that’s all she needed. A few girls being out through injury has given others a chance to step up and perform. The players in Cork’s full-forward line are doing exactly that.
‘Having so much competition for places is what makes the Cork senior set-up so successful. The aim is to build on that competition and drive on now. No-one’s starting place is secure which is exactly what you want.
‘You have to keep performing at training and in matches when you have so much young talent coming through. There are no definite starters and Cork is lucky to be in that situation.’
And so, Cork find themselves in another national league final following wins over Tipperary, Waterford and Donegal plus an epic one-point loss, 3-14 to 4-11, to the Dubs at Páirc Uí Chaoimh at the end of May. What’s clear from the reigning All-Ireland champions and Cork’s recent meetings is that they continue to bring the best out of one another. This Saturday's Division 1 league decider should be no different.
‘It is always a great game against Dublin because they bring such physicality and fitness levels,’ Finn said.
‘Being All-Ireland champions, Dublin are the ones setting the standard over the last few years. Cork are just trying to pick up our training sessions and performance levels in matches a notch. If we can do that and match Dublin’s intensity then it should be another great game when we meet in the final.
‘The most positive thing I took away from our previous game in Páirc Uí Chaoimh was how we battled back from being eight points down and got to within a point of Dublin. That was really good to see. Hopefully, we can bring that same attitude into the league final.’