BANTRY Blues captain Laura O’Sullivan will play through the pain barrier for her club in Sunday’s All-Ireland ladies’ junior A football championship semi-final against Derry team, Steelstown, in Wolfe Tone Park, Bantry, at 1.30pm.
It’s been confirmed that the 22-year-old has suffered a third cruciate knee ligament injury, but after playing the last three games with the injury, O’Sullivan is set to put her club first again this weekend in her team’s biggest ever match.
‘After playing three games on it Laura has a tear on her cruciate. She found out after a visit to the specialist in Waterford,’ Bantry manager Paul Drummey explained.
‘It’s the third time she’s done it and it’s hugely disappointing but such is the fight in Laura, and after she played the Munster final, I wouldn’t be ruling her out.’
Bantry are already playing without Emer O’Shea, who suffered a cruciate injury in the drawn Munster JAFC final against Templemore.
The West Cork women produced a gritty display to win the replay (1-11 to 1-9) after extra time against the Tipp team, with Libby Coppinger and Aoife O’Driscoll leading by example in the attack.
‘Winning the Munster final was amazing. The scenes at the final whistle will live long in the memory for everyone involved,’ Drummey reflected.
‘The game itself was a battle. We dug deeper than we have ever done before during extra time and we managed to get two points to see us over the line. We scored a point late in normal time to equalise but we certainly got what we deserved.
‘It was very pleasing to see the spirit and fight we showed. We had subs who came on and made an impact but that’s nothing new as they have done that all year. Players stepped up when needed and we have players who gave it everything.
‘Our defence was immense under pressure and they drove us forward in extra time while giving very little to Templemore. Aoife Crowley is a leader at full back and she showed all of that in extra time but as did all the girls – it was a panel effort, which is very pleasing.’
Now, after winning a first Munster title for the Bantry GAA Club, the adventure continues with this Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final against the Derry women at Wolfe Tone Park.
It’s a major event for the team and the town, but Drummey is trying to take the emotion out of the occasion and let his players focus solely on the game and not be distracted by the build-up.
‘It’s hugely important to treat it as another game. Having it in Bantry is a lovely bonus but we have to treat Bantry as we have had with every other place we have played all year,’ Drummey explained.
‘It’s huge for the club and the girls to firstly get this far but to now host an All-Ireland semi-final is a dream for everyone.
‘We haven’t played a game in Bantry in a long time but we need to play our very best to reach another goal that we have set out for ourselves.
‘It’s great for the supporters to be able come out and not travel for an All-Ireland semi-final after following us all over the county all year.’
Sunday’s opponents, Steelstown, defeated Mullaghbawn (Antrim), Trillick (Tyrone), Buncrana (Donegal) and O’Neill Shamrocks (Monaghan) to win Ulster. In the provincial final win (1-7 to 1-4) against O’Neill Shamrocks, Emma Doherty scored seven points for the Derry side.
‘Steelstown have very good young players, they are strong in attack and they have the northern trait of a great defence. They have a few players we are well aware of and we know they will need looking after,’ Drummey said.
‘Defending was a huge plus for us in the replay against Templemore and we really took our chances but we just need to keep our shape on Sunday because when we do that and we get our forwards firing, we can win any game.’
While it was Coppinger and O’Driscoll that made the difference in the replay against Templemore – and those two hard games against the Tipp side were the ideal preparation for Sunday – this is a strong Bantry side, with Emma Spillane, Niamh Crowley, Edel McGovern, Aoife Crowley, Ann Coakley and Mairead Dullea all making impressions in recent games.