WHEN Ciara O’Sullivan posted a 30th birthday card to her former Mourneabbey team-mate and current Dublin forward Noelle Healy recently, she penned two notes inside.
It was the week before Cork took on Galway in the recent All-Ireland semi-final, with Dublin having already booked their spot in the decider the previous weekend.
‘One was a birthday message if we lost to Galway and it was “best of luck in the final, we’ll be shouting for you”,’ O’Sullivan says.
‘The second was a birthday message if we beat Galway and it said, “go out, enjoy it, there’s more to life than football!” I got a voucher too and told her it was only redeemable on December 20th, the day of the final!’
Dubliner Healy spent the 2019 season with Mourneabbey in North Cork when she worked at Cork University Hospital as a anaesthetist.
Together, Healy and Mourneabbey won it all, so Ciara O’Sullivan knows exactly the threat her former team-mate carries, but the experienced Cork forward also knows what the Rebels need to do to dethrone the Dubs this Sunday.
‘We are playing the three-in-a-row All-Ireland champions and we are going to have to bring more work-rate then they do, and more drive and determination,’ O’Sullivan told this week’s Star Sport Podcast.
‘We will aim to not concede a goal, that starts from our full-forward line and stopping Dublin coming out fast because they do like to break fast. We will have to track the runners and work really, really hard, particularly in the forward line so that the backs aren’t under pressure and that Dublin can’t kick easy ball in.’
While work-rate has been a buzz word in the Cork camp in this season’s championship, they’re also working on honing their killer instinct in front of goal. They’ve ten goals in three games with Áine Terry O’Sullivan (3), Saoirse Noonan (3), Orla Finn (1), Melissa Duggan (1), Sadhbh O’Leary (1) and Ciara O’Sullivan (1) all hitting the back of the net.
In recent championship meetings, Dublin’s knack of goal-scoring has eclipsed Cork’s. In the 2019 semi-final, Dublin won 2-11 to 0-11. In the 2018 All-Ireland final Dublin won 3-11 to 1-12. This Dublin team can score goals, but so can Cork.
‘I know it’s a cliché but goals do win games and it’s something in training that we have been working on,’ O’Sullivan explains.
‘If we have an overlap and if we have one extra player then we are going for goal. In that case, it’s worst-case scenario that you get a point. There are times when you come up against crowded defences and a point is a great score, but we have been focussing on if there is an option for goal then we go for that first. We’ve seen the results of that over the last few matches.’
The other side is that Cork have kept clean sheets in two of their three championship wins, shutting out Kerry and Galway.
Key here has been the return of Roisín Phelan to the Cork set-up this season and she’s been a rock at full back.
‘You forget that Roisín is only 25 as well and she has so much experience. We did miss that experience and presence last year in the full-back line,’ O’Sullivan explains.
‘It also frees up Hannah Looney to move to midfield, she had a super game against Galway. Her and Maire (O’Callaghan) have such a good partnership in the middle of the field. That’s an area where we are going to have go after in the final because the likes of Lauren Magee is one of Dublin’s best players and biggest work horses.
‘They will be under pressure in midfield but I have no doubt that they can do it because they are coming in off the back of three great performances.’