Glandular fever sidelined Eimear Scally for most of 2016 but the Cork forward is back and in flying form. She spoke to KIERAN McCARTHY ahead of Saturday’s league final
EIMEAR Scally is quickly making up for lost time.
After a double All-Ireland winning year in 2015 at both senior and minor level, the latter as captain, big things were expected of the Eire Óg club-woman in 2016.
But in December of 2015 she was struck down with glandular fever that knocked the wind out of her sails for almost nine months.
Scally still picked up an All-Ireland senior winner’s medal last season, coming on in the final against Dublin, but she hadn’t fully shaken off the viral infection.
These days, the Kilcrea, Ovens woman is flying fit in the Cork attack, she racked up 1-3 from play in the Lidl Ladies NFL Division 1 semi-final win against Dublin and she’s fulfilling the potential she’s always showed.
‘I got glandular fever in December 2015,’ she recalled.
‘My sister had it before and I knew I had it. I got up one morning and my throat was just huge. I knew it wasn’t your normal throat infection, but look, worse things can happen too.
‘I went back playing a small bit in the league last year, around March, for the last round, the semi-final and the final, but I had to take more time out after that because it knocked me completely again.
‘I went back way too early, to be honest.
‘It kept me out then until August so it pretty much knocked me out from December to August. But even when I was training with Cork in August I still wasn’t myself coming up to the All-Ireland final.
‘I was fine doing bits and pieces but I didn’t have the energy for any activities. I could do a bit but it would take me two days to feel somewhat normal again.
‘It was November, December where I started to feel 100 per cent again, that I knew it was out of my system.’
Coming off the back of her 2015 heroics, Scally was ready to kick on and impress the new manager, Ephie Fitzgerald, who has described her as ‘a super player, very difficult to mark’.
Instead, she was only able to provide flashes of the talent that saw her, as a minor, come on in the 2014 All-Ireland senior final and score the goal that inspired that famous ten-point Rebel comeback against the Dubs.
‘It was just annoying last year, going to training and standing on the sideline and having to watch on,’ she admitted.
‘But I went straight into UL training at the start of October last year and that’s really helped me with Cork this year. I’m so much happier with myself now, being fit and being able to play a full game.
‘I’m after nailing down a position – well, as much as you can expect to – so things are going well now.’
She has three senior All-Ireland medals to her name and she’s still only 20 years old.
Her first year as minor, 2014, saw her brought into the senior panel, too. She went on, as a sub, to score that goal against Dublin in the senior decider in Croke Park – and legend will recall how she swayed the management team’s mind that day. They wanted to bring her on in the half-forward line. Showing the confidence of youth she pushed to be put in corner forward and said, ‘I will get you a goal.’ She did. And Cork won.
Her second year as a senior, 2015, saw the UL student again brought on as a second-half sub who helped decide the game’s outcome: she came up trumps with a last-gasp block to deny Dublin in the closing stages.
Last year, despite glandular fever puncturing her season, she was again sprung from the bench, and played her part in Cork’s 11th All-Ireland win in 12 seasons.
Now she wants to nail down a starting spot in the Cork attack, and her performances in the league have strengthened her case.
‘I want to hold my position,’ she stated.
‘I was hoping to push on big time last year but it didn’t work out, and now I feel I’m ready to push on again.’
She’s one of the young guns that are taking their chance with Cork this season, as Ephie Fitzgerald gives youth its fling without upsetting the momentum of the Cork juggernaut.
‘There are a lot of new girls after coming into the team and we’re doing well so far,’ Scally said.
‘The underage has been very good in Cork for the last few years and you can see players coming into the senior set-up now off the back of that, like Emma Spillane, and now she gets to line up with and learn from Bríd Stack and Roisin Phelan. You have Emma, Melissa (Duggan), Niamh (Cotter), all the girls have stepped up this year.
‘Ephie was saying that we only have six or eight from last year’s All-Ireland team and you could look at that and be worried, but everyone is playing super football at the moment.’
Scally is playing as well as any of the Rebels, and her heroics for UL in winning the O’Connor Cup saw her named the LFGA Player of the Month for March, another honour for this mid-Cork hot-shot.
Finished her first year in UL – where she studies Health and Fitness – Scally is working in Blackpool Post Office for the summer, and she hopes to deliver some bad news to Donegal in Sunday’s Division 1 final at Parnell Park (4pm).
The Ulster women sprung a shock when they beat Cork 3-16 to 0-12 in Mallow in the league, with Geraldine McLaughlin and Yvonne McMonagle combining for 3-10, but in Cork’s defence, they had their semi-final place assured before that game.
‘We won’t read too much into that. We were poor that day,’ she admitted.
‘Donegal are going seriously well, they only won the Division 2 final last year and now to be in the Division 1 final is some achievement for them.
‘It’s a good challenge for us, they’re not a team that we’ve played a lot, but we know McMonagle and McLaughlin are two serious players.
‘We need to make sure that we get the ball up quick enough to our forwards because they filter back fast and get loads behind the ball so we have plenty to work on ahead of the game.’
When the ball is switched quickly to attack, Scally will be ready to take advantage, as she looks to come good on the potential she has shown for several seasons now.