ORLA Finn is convinced she’s made the right decision to retire from inter-county football.
After a glittering 12–year career with Cork the Kinsale sharpshooter (30) feels it’s time to hang up her boots and enjoy some other parts of life that were put on the backburner while she spearheaded the Rebels’ attack.
It’s time to live life outside the inter-county bubble.
‘I will try and enjoy this year with no commitment to Cork football,’ Orla exclusively told this week’s Star Sport Podcast.
Exploring is high on her new-look to-do list. Orla and former Waterford hurler Brian O’Halloran got married in early December and, both primary school teachers, have already planned a few trips for the year ahead.
‘We will do a bit of travelling,’ Orla said. ‘We are going to the west coast of America for Easter, and Italy and a few different places in the summer. We are both teachers so we have the holidays.
‘It’s something that I have never done because with football summer is a busy time, so we will see a bit of the world this year.’
Orla’s decision to step back from the Cork set-up is a blow to the Rebels, as she is one of the top forwards in the country. The two-time All-Star (2016 and 2019) was ruthless in front of goal; a fast, skilful, clever and accurate forward. She snaffled up six All-Ireland senior titles and six Division 1 league crowns, too, but aside from her magnificent medal haul Orla was the ideal role model for young players. A class act on and off the field.
Current Cork boss Shane Ronyane, disappointed to see Orla go, hailed her as ‘a massive player for Cork’, while also singling out her diligence to training and impact on the squad. Former Cork LGFA PRO Peter O’Leary posted on Twitter: ‘An unbelievable player, used to be the first to training, lights to go on early and looking to do some shooting practice.’
Orla made her inter-county debut in 2011, drafted into Eamonn Ryan’s magnificent All-Ireland medal-winning machine by the great man himself, and she has played a starring role ever since. But the time is right to exit stage left, she feels.
‘If I had the hunger to go again this season, I would have gone again, but the hunger went a little bit and that made the decision a bit easier,’ she explained.
‘I had the winter months to think about it a little bit more. I feel I have made the right decision. Come summer and the girls are playing the big matches I will definitely miss the big occasions, but a lot of work goes on behind the scenes between now and then and I didn’t think I was ready to give it my all this year. That helped me make my decision, when I wasn’t up for putting in the hard training that I have over the last few years.’
Orla will miss the buzz of championship games and the friendships she has built up over the past decade, but she knew during the 2022 campaign that it was likely to be her last in Cork colours; she’s bowing out on her terms.
‘Even last year when I was playing I had it in my head that it might be my last season playing so I tried to enjoy it as much as I could,’ she said, and knew leaving the pitch after Cork’s All-Ireland quarter-final loss (2-13 to 0-17) to Mayo last July that she was unlikely to return again. It’s the end of an era.
‘It was a difficult decision too. I gave it my all for the 12 years, and it will be such a change of lifestyle for me going forward, but I am ready to move on.
‘It’s needed, and mentally I think I need it too. I am a person who gives my all at sport so I think I need to step away. I will still keep fit and stuff, but I won’t be under pressure to compete at a high level.
‘Twelve years is a long time and I did give it my best for those 12 years. There is a new chapter in my life starting now and I am looking forward to that too.’
That competitiveness in her DNA is still there so Cork’s loss will be Kinsale’s gain in the county senior football championship. Life without Orla Finn begins for Cork this Sunday in their league opener away to Mayo, but while she’s gone, her impact won’t be forgotten.