Ahead of Sunday’s decider against Dublin Ger McCarthy meets experienced Cork campaigner, goalkeeper Martina O’Brien
SUNDAY’S All-Ireland ladies’ senior football final will not be new ground for experienced netminder Martina O’Brien.
The Cork and Clonakilty goalkeeper has seen it all before, yet the allure of another chance to walk out on Croke Park’s hallowed turf on All-Ireland final day means O’Brien is as excited as any of the new members on Cork’s panel.
‘A few of us “older” girls have been chatting about getting to another All-Ireland final and the fact while we understand the occasion we are actually more focussed than ever before,’ O’Brien commented to The Southern Star.
‘We can manage the build-up and everything around it, which is a good thing. We are way more focused on the game even though there is still absolutely loads of excitement. Nerves are building but we know what’s coming on the 16th.
‘We have played Dublin before and know it is going to be an absolute belter. Hopefully it will turn out to be a good day for us.’
Heading to Croke Park as underdogs rather than favourites is a twist to Cork’s usual journey to the capital on All-Ireland final day. Yet, Martina O’Brien is confident a squad, with a nice balance of youth and experience, will be able to handle an established and in-form Dublin side.
‘It is different circumstances now as Cork are not going in to an All-Ireland final as reigning champions,’ the Cork goalkeeper agreed.
‘I suppose, looking at our backs, there are possibly four out of the current six that have never played in an All-Ireland senior final. From midfield onwards, we have a nice mixture of youth and experience. It is still going to be a great occasion for any of those girls starting for the first time.
‘Dublin will be favourites because of last year but it is not going to worry them or something that we are going to dwell on either. As a panel, we are really excited to move forward and we have good youth and energy to build on this Sunday.’
For all her years minding Cork’s goal, nerves still play a part in Martina O’Brien’s build-up to an All-Ireland. Cork’s younger squad members will benefit from witnessing O’Brien and the other established players’ routines once the bus pulls into GAA HQ.
‘Oh yeah, nerves are a thing especially when you are on the bus heading towards Croke Park,’ O’Brien admitted.
‘As a player, it is still the best experience you can have. It will be great for all the younger girls to get that experience. In the dressing room beforehand, all the little routines you go through before running out onto the pitch and are greeted by the crowd roaring.
‘It is what you dream of when you are growing up; watching the Cork ladies and then that is what you want for yourself. It just gives you that lift and you thrive off that energy. Whatever is happening you still are able to zone in on what needs to be done.
‘All-Ireland final day is nerve-wracking no matter what anyone says, but once the ball is thrown in, nothing else matters and it will be game-on.’