ORLA Finn has revealed the secret to her success this season: confidence.
The Kinsale woman (24) was the best player in the Lidl Ladies National Football League Division 1 campaign as she spearheaded Cork’s successful title defence, and she has carried that form into the championship, scoring 1-6 in last Sunday evening’s Munster final win against Kerry in Killarney.
Finn’s first-half goal showed her at her opportunist best, making the most of a mistake by Kerry defender Aisling Leonard, while she was lethal from frees, scoring six, and her overall ball-winning ability, link-up play and work-rate was top class. With 60 seconds to go and Cork up by seven points, the Rebel forward ran back into her own full-back line to help stifle a Kerry attack.
Up to this year, the St Joseph’s Boys’ National School, Cobh teacher was used as a sub, but this season, in the absence of the retired Valerie Mulcahy and under new manager Ephie Fitzgerald, Finn was handed her chance, and she has grabbed it in style.
‘Confidence is a big thing,’ Finn said.
‘I had to step up into Valerie’s boots after she retired. When a big player like her leaves, other players have to step up and help fill the gap; that’s what I’m trying to do.
‘I’ve got a lot of game-time too this season which has been fantastic, and getting the chance to play with the same forwards has helped us all build up an understanding and we’re gelling well.
‘Taking the frees helps as well as it’s more responsibility and if you score a few then you get confidence from that.
‘I’m a lot more confident this year. Coming in and out as a sub over the last few years was great for experience but I know that now is the time for me to step up and put down a marker. I’m enjoying my football, getting games under my belt and I feel I’m improving all the time.’
Ten-time All-Ireland winner Valerie Mulcahy was in Killarney last Sunday evening to watch Finn fire Cork to a 2-8 to 0-7 Munster final win, and she will have given her successor a big thumbs up, as did Rebel goalkeeper Martina O’Brien.
‘Orla is such a football talent and she has really come out of herself this year. For a small girl she’s really strong. No one in training likes to mark her, and she was brilliant again tonight,’ O’Brien said.
Player-of-the-Match Finn was alert to make the most of a Kerry mistake to score the only goal of the first half: ‘She (Aisling Leonard) spilled the ball, luckily I was behind her, I was able to pick it up, I went straight for the goal and it came off.’
This was a good performance, says Finn, by a team who had a point to prove after the recent 2-14 to 2-9 loss to Kerry in an earlier round of the Munster championship – and winning back the Munster title sets up Cork nicely for the defence of their All-Ireland title.
‘It was important to show that we are still in contention for an All-Ireland because losing to Kerry a few weeks back did knock us a bit. We’ll take great confidence from this win,’ Finn said.
‘We came out here knowing it would be a tough game and that’s what it was, but we had the right attitude going into it and we got the result that our hard work deserved. Now we will go back in training for the next stage of the season and work as hard as we can to defend our All-Ireland title.’
With Finn bringing her shooting boots, it would take a brave person to back against Cork winning an 11th All-Ireland in 12 seasons.