CIARA O’Sullivan never doubted that Cork would defend their All-Ireland camogie minor A championship title.
Apart from an early wake-up call when they lost their Group 2 opener against Tipperary, the young Rebels have impressed en route to a second successive All-Ireland crown.
Newcestown teenager Ciara (17) has been a key player in these back-to-back successes.
‘At the start of the year we found it hard to get going and then we came up against a Tipperary team that had hit the ground running. But we know that if we played them now we’d be a different proposition,’ Ciara says.
‘That loss to Tipp brought us together as a team and we fought harder as a unit after that. From there on, we got better and better.’
Group wins against Wexford and Dublin and a draw with Galway (a repeat of last year’s final) saw Cork advance to an All-Ireland semi-final against Kilkenny. They beat the Cats by 1-21 to 1-14. In the final they lowered the Banner with a 3-15 to 2-12 victory against Clare.
‘By the time we got to the final we had momentum. We took that from the group stage into the Kilkenny semi-final and we felt unstoppable going into the Clare game,’ Ciara says.
‘The wind was really strong in the final. We played with it in the first half and we wanted to put as many scores on the board as we could when we had that advantage. We did. We led 3-11 to 0-3 at half time and I knew we had control in the second half.
‘I never doubted us once from the Tipp match onwards.’
In 2018 Ciara won the All-Ireland minor title alongside Newcestown club-mate Ashling O’Donovan and Ballinascarthy’s Moira Barrett who was captain. This season there were five Carbery players on the panel and all five played in the final. As well as Ciara at wing forward, Hannah Sexton (Kilbrittain/Timoleague) and Claire Sexton (Ballinascarthy) lined out in defence, and Enniskeane’s Sinead Hurley started in midfield, while another Enniskeane player, Tara Sheehan, replaced Ciara in the second half. Courcey Rovers’ Fiona Keating, another who was involved last year, was named player of the match after a five-point haul.
‘There are more and more West Cork girls being selected for Cork which is brilliant,’ Coláiste na Toirbrirte fifth-year student Ciara says.
‘There has always been one or two from West Cork involved on county teams – but this year has been phenomenal. There are five of us from West Cork, there were three last year, and of course the Courcey girls are very local too.’
The future is bright for Carbery camogie, Ciara says, and a good senior championship run is one of many targets in the months ahead. She’s also confident that Newcestown will be in the battle for silverware.
‘We won the county intermediate final two years ago. That was one my best moments. I’d love a cut off that again this year. I know the grades have been brought together – senior B and intermediate – but I feel that we have a chance this year,’ says Ciara, who has more boxes to tick at county level too.
‘The Munster championship is played after the All-Ireland series and it’s one I’d love to win with Cork this year. Last year we were beaten by Waterford in the Munster final so there’s unfinished business there.’
The daughter of Richard and Jackie, who are heavily involved in Newcestown GAA, and an older sister to Cormac and Karen, who both play with Newcestown too, Ciara is another talent on the Carbery camogie conveyor belt that is producing All-Ireland winners and stars for the future.
Colette Desmond, Suzanne Deasy and Maeve Lynch are some of the Newcestown players that Ciara looks up to. It won’t be long before her name is added to that list.