SWAPPING the cold of Alaska for the warmth of home in Bantry is a decision that has reaped huge rewards for Aoife O’Driscoll this season.
Last year the Bantry Blues full forward spent 12 months in Alaska – first through college and then working – before deciding to come home this year.
‘I missed football for the first time since I was ten years old. Alaska is cold, but it’s a beautiful country. The scenery is amazing,’ she said.
Linking up again with her Bantry teammates, O’Driscoll has played a major role in firing the Blues to county and Munster titles this season, and she now has her crosshairs set on Dunboyne in Saturday’s All-Ireland junior football championship final at the Gaelic Grounds, Limerick.
‘To come this far with this team is fantastic,’ the former Cork U14 and minor player said.
‘We really feel that we have the best junior team that we have ever had. Players are back that were missing last year so we have everyone this season.
‘There have been a few important factors this year, especially the lads – the management team of Paul Drummey, Joe Downey and Niall Canty – coming on board to train us. ‘Training three times a week is a big help too and we’ve seen the improvement.’
This Bantry team is improving with every game, especially since it left the Cork series and ventured into the unknown, and championship clashes with teams from Waterford, Tipperary and Derry. Each game presented different challenges, but each hurdle was jumped.
‘During the county rounds, except for the semi-final against St Val’s, we weren’t really pushed hard, but the games against Templemore really pushed us all the way. That second game (the Munster final replay) was the toughest game I have ever played,’ O’Driscoll said, before looking ahead to Meath outfit Dunboyne in the All-Ireland final this weekend.
‘Like we said all year, this Saturday is one more game. Yes, it’s an All-Ireland final and it is a big occasion, but we won’t change our approach – that has worked for us all season long.
‘This is the most important game that we might ever play in and we will put everything into it. We’ve come a long way this season and we want to finish it off in the best possible fashion, by winning on Saturday.
‘We are so close to winning the biggest prize there is and I couldn’t imagine doing it with anyone else than this team.
‘I have best friends on the team and it’s so important to do it for them, and for the town and everyone that has got behind us. We want to do it for everyone.’
Having experienced All-Ireland finals as an underage player with Cork will be a help to O’Driscoll, but she does admit that lining out with her club, and her friends, is as good as it gets.
‘I have played in All-Irelands underage with Cork before, as have some more of the girls, but this is a lot different because it’s with our club. This is more important. Club comes first. You don’t get anywhere without your club,’ O’Driscoll said.
‘I said to the team before the All-Ireland semi-final against Steelstown in Bantry that we always wanted people to come and watch us play. We embraced it in Bantry. We were excited rather than nervous. It will be the same on Saturday.’
O’Driscoll will be a key player for Bantry, with her scoring power one of the team’s strengths. She scored 2-6 in the Cork final win against Kinsale, followed by 2-5 in the Munster semi-final v Comeragh Rangers, 1-8 in the two games against Templemore and 0-4 against Steelstown in the All-Ireland semi-final.