ORLA Finn’s ability to convert frees will be critical to Cork’s chances of defeating Dublin in Sunday’s All-Ireland final.
The responsibility for Cork’s frees has again fallen on the experienced Kinsale player’s shoulders during the 2020 championship.
When it comes to converting frees, as accustomed as Finn is to punishing opponent’s indiscretions, this inter-county campaign has proven more difficult than any of its predecessors.
That’s because playing championship games during winter does not lend itself to aiding free-takers. Changeable winds, freezing temperatures and a varying quality of underfoot conditions makes it harder to float the ball over the crossbar than during the summer months.
Finn has been on free-taking duty in each of Cork’s three championship games and had to contend with additional seasonal complications.
‘You just have to go out an extra day by yourself and practice a bit more free-taking than you would in the summer time,’ Finn explained
‘You have to try and get used to the conditions you are going to encounter. We were lucky in the semi-final in that the Croke Park surface is unbelievable. That did help and the conditions as well in that there was little or no wind.
‘All of these factors have to be taken into account when you are taking frees. Most forwards know, playing on a day when there is very little wind is a joy to be involved in.’
Cork’s opening game against Kerry saw Finn dealing with icy conditions and facing into a strong wind in the opening half in Tralee. The Kinsale star missed a few early opportunities before settling and finishing with five points (all from frees) in her county’s 1-14 to 0-14 triumph.
Cavan were Ephie Fitzgerald’s side’s next opponents on a very heavy playing surface in Birr, Offaly. Freezing temperatures made life even more difficult but Finn finished with 1-3 (1-2 from frees.) The Cork forward’s goal coming courtesy of a long-range free that got caught in the wind and deceived Cavan shot-stopper Elaine Walsh.
A rearranged semi-final venue at Croke Park saw Finn kick over eight frees and finish with a total of 0-9 as Cork defeated Galway to reach this weekend’s decider. Hopefully, that positive experience at GAA HQ will stand to the former West Cork player against Dublin in this year’s decider.
When not taking frees, Finn has proven a crucial member of Cork’s dangerous attack that has amassed 10-40 in three championship outings. Averaging 3-13 a game, the movement and work-rate of Finn, Áine Terry O’Sullivan, Saoirse Noonan, Doireann and Ciara O’Sullivan plus Eimear Kiely has been a joy to watch.
Playing further out the pitch in the Cork half-forward line has seen Finn flourish in a newly-defined role.
‘We have a very strong Cork senior team this year and have really gelled, something maybe we weren’t doing over the last number of years,’ Finn admitted. ‘Melissa Duggan is in flying form and has taken on more responsibilities by joining the forwards. She is fit enough to do that and then get back and defend as well. It is brilliant to have that kind of pace coming through the middle and to give us more options.
‘This year, I’ve been given a new role out wing-forward and it took a little bit of time to adapt. It’s a different position from being inside in the full-forward line where I was over the last number of years. I am enjoying my new role.’