BY GER McCARTHY
SADHBH O’Leary is one of three Kinsale players on the Cork senior panel who are making a positive impression in the early rounds of the national league.
The versatile forward has forced her way into contention for a regular starting berth following 45 minutes against Westmeath and 30 minutes each in the Tipperary and Dublin games.
Blessed with instant acceleration and an eye for goal, O’Leary has linked defence with attack and dove-tailed impressively alongside the likes of Orla Finn, Saoirse Noonan and Áine Terry O’Sullivan during Cork’s three consecutive Division 1 wins.
‘There is a good bunch involved with Cork this year and everyone gets on really well,’ O’Leary said.
‘There is huge motivation within the squad to do well. As for Ephie (Fitzgerald) and the management team, they are being very open with us and encouraging us to be positive, to try things out and are pushing us on all the time. As a player, that encouragement fills you with confidence.
‘Ephie is very clear in what he wants from us. Paddy (O’Shea) is also a very good motivator and has all that experience from being on the Cork senior panel. Both are very good at inspiring us when it comes to preparing us for our games.’
Orla Finn is usually the first name people think of when it comes to Kinsale and Cork ladies football. Yet, this year, Finn’s team-mates Sadhbh O’Leary and Caoimhe O’Callaghan have featured in the early rounds of Cork’s league campaign and look like they belong.
‘I grew up playing alongside Orla and Caoimhe, so it is nice to have familiar faces around when we are playing for Cork,’ O’Leary said.
‘It is good fun on the car journeys, and we have been lucky to be involved in the first few league matches. The early rounds have been hugely beneficial because they were against tough opponents. Each game was intense and a very good test for us, but we managed to get the win each time.
‘Having said that, I feel like we still have a lot to work on both as a team and individually. We made a few mistakes in the Dublin game but had enough belief to go on and get a one-point win.
‘Looking back on Westmeath and Tipperary, even though the winning margin was big, both of those games were hard going. Westmeath were quite defensive and kept a lot of players behind the ball. So, it was good that we managed to overcome their sweepers, remained patient and took our scores when they came.’
This is an especially busy time of the year for the 20-year-old Kinsale forward. O’Leary’s commitments to her college work, the Cork seniors and UCC’s football team require careful balancing. That workload is set to increase once Kinsale begin their domestic league fixtures.
‘Orla, Caoimhe and I love playing for Kinsale but there is a very talented team there outside the three of us. Jenny Murphy, Faye Ahern, Tracey McCarthy and Georgia Gould are just some of the talented players in the Kinsale team. It is always a complete team effort when it comes to Kinsale,’ said Leary, who also revelled in her first game at Croke Park recently when Cork beat All-Ireland champions Dublin by one point in the league.
‘It was unbelievable to play at Croke Park for the first time,’ she said.
‘The pitch itself is absolutely massive but I feel like that really suited me. I love to run into space and Croke Park allowed me to get a good run at my marker whenever I was in possession.’
Next up in Division 1 is Mayo this Sunday afternoon in Cloughduv, a ground O’Leary knows well.
‘I have played in Cloughduv many times including for West Cork and trained there with the Cork minors as well,’ O’Leary said.
‘The Cork seniors are training there this year so that’s a bonus, being used to the pitch before we take on Mayo.
‘We may have won three games in a row but that doesn’t mean we can take our eyes off the next opponent.’