ALL-STAR Cork footballer Orla Finn is reaping the rewards of Kinsale’s overall improvement as a team, according to captain Aisling Judge.
Finn (24) scored 0-12 (including nine frees) when Kinsale defeated Drom-Broadford 0-17 to 1-10 in last month’s Munster junior ladies’ football final in Mallow, and for many years she has been her team’s top forward – but the emergence of a new crop of talented Kinsale players has helped ease the pressure on Finn’s shoulders and fire the team to county and provincial honours this year.
Club captain Judge – who is also Kinsale’s goalkeeper and chairperson – feels Cork ace Finn, who picked up her first All-Star award last Saturday night in Dublin, can now play with more freedom and is also benefiting from a better supply of ball.
In the Munster semi-final against Dungarvan, Sadhbh O’Leary kicked 2-5, Jenny Murphy scored 1-1 and Faye Aherne was also on target, and this helps spread the scoring throughout the forwards so the team doesn’t rely solely on Finn.
‘Orla’s a very important figure within the club and all the younger players look up to her and want to follow in her footsteps,’ Judge (25) said.
‘On the pitch she’s a player the leads by example, she won’t shout and give orders because that’s not her style, but she leads by what she does. When we need her, she steps up.
‘What’s great, I think, is that if you go back a few years ago, this team was very reliant on Orla to get the scores. She’s still our top score-getter but in the last two to three years, a lot of the younger players have improved a lot and we have a very good attack now so our reliance on Orla isn’t as great as it would have been – that’s great for Orla because it allows her to express herself even more and she doesn’t feel under the pressure of being the one that has to perform.
‘Orla is very important but now we have a team around her that can step up as well. That’s a big difference the last year or so compared to before – we now have a really strong squad of players that is pushing our performance on.
‘Orla is now getting better quality of ball delivered into her and she has more freedom because we aren’t as reliant on her as we were.’
With O’Leary, Murphy and Aherne helping to share the scoring burden along with Finn, Kinsale will need their attack in top form this Sunday in their All-Ireland junior ladies football semi-final against Connacht champions Kilmoremoy in St James’ Park in their home town of Ballina (1pm throw-in).
Kilmoremoy are the amalgamation of three clubs – Ballina Stephenites, Ardnaree Sarsfields and Bonniconlon – and won the recent Connacht final 6-14 to 1-11 against St James’.
This tie presents a new challenge for Kinsale as they will travel on Saturday and stay over in Castlebar the night before, venturing into the lion’s den on Sunday morning.
‘We would actually prefer to travel the day of the game – with the young age profile of our team, they mightn’t get the best sleep in the world the night before – but the combination of the game being in Ballina and the match being fixed for 1pm made that impossible. Travelling away is new to us so we need to deal with that, too,’ Judge explained.
The Kinsale captain also acknowledges that the Cork junior champions need to repeat the performance of the county final win against Dromtarriff if they want to get past Kilmoremoy on Sunday.
‘Our best match this year was our county final performance, that day we really played with the shackles off and there was a real belief before that game that if we played to our best we could and would win, and we did,’ Judge said.
‘In the Munster final there were more nerves which is understandable but we know that we need to step it up from that performance. We have played in a big match now (the Munster final) and we need to draw on that experience of the build-up and the day itself.’