WITH Cork reaching both the Intermediate and Senior deciders of the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Championships this year, the spotlight has invariably centred on Paudie Murray as manager of both teams.
On each occasion, there have been players involved in the two games as well however. On September 10th, Rachel O’Shea was one of those.
Though still a teenager, O’Shea was a key operator as the Rebels’ second team made it to Croke Park 12 months ago, scoring six points in the Semi-Final win over Laois and shooting four in the agonising one-point defeat to Kilkenny that left her in floods of tears.
She had done enough to warrant an introduction to the Senior squad for this year’s National League however. It was for educational purposes, to give her a glimpse of what that environment was like. In the meantime, she propelled Cork to the Division 2 title, giving a player-of-the-match performance in the Final by scoring six points in the defeat of Derry.
She registered three points, including two from play three weeks ago but Cork let a four-point interval lead slip. They were still two ahead entering the closing stages but were reeled in by Meath.
By now though, the 20-year-old from Carrigaline (she turns 21 in December) had convinced Murray and his staff that she was worthy of a place on the Senior squad for the biggest of days. So there was no time to dwell on what had occurred or make sense of what had occurred over the previous 75 minutes or so.
Portraying an impressive maturity, she realised that she needed to park all the emotions swirling around her.
“It’s an honour to be on both panels” says O’Shea. “After the match, I just went into the dressing room. I gathered myself first because you have to remember you’re going into a dressing room where they haven’t even gone out onto the pitch yet. You have to be positive for them. It has to be that you came in and nothing has happened and be focussed for that match.”
In one of the most dramatic Finals of the modern era, Cork snatched victory thanks to Julia White’s winner in the sixth minute of injury time. It was delirium, exhilaration, a sweet victory indeed.
Once it was done though, O’Shea’s focus returned to the Intermediates. She knows that her presence on the Senior panel is about having a look at how the likes of Rena Buckley, Gemma O’Connor, Orla Cotter, Ashling Thompson and Aoife Murray go about their business, to get a little idea of the speed and physicality. For now though, the Intermediates are her team.
“I was on the Senior panel but I was mainly focussed on the Intermediate match because I was playing in that and had been training with them. It was actually nearly sickening at the final whistle. We had performed well. But we left Meath back into the game which was disappointing on our behalf. I suppose we were lucky at the same time just to get another shot at it.
“My focus again (after the Senior Final) was straight away on the next game, getting the mentality right, resting up, getting hydrated after the match. We have another shot, we haven’t lost it, so 100% I was focused on that, not on celebrating.
“We train just as much as the Seniors. There’s no messing.”
Chloe Sigerson has shown how the Intermediates can provide a pathway if taking the right things on board. Playing Senior is certainly an ambition O’Shea harbours.
“A hundred per cent. I was with the Seniors for some of the League, only a few minutes coming on in the second half but a hundred per cent it makes me hungrier. I was training with the Seniors and I want to be at that level. The sharpness of it all, that’s exactly where you want to go.
“I’m enjoying training at the moment and if anything happens (beyond that), I’ll be absolutely delighted.”
The third-year recreational leisure management student at Cork IT is accentuating the positives and eliminating the negatives as she looks forward to Sunday’s replay at the Gaelic Grounds.
“You’ve to look at things in a positive way. We’ve another three weeks with the girls. We’re such a close-knit team, we get on very well. It’s another three weeks with your best friends, back to what we love doing. We’ll have loads of time in the winter to rest up so we’re delighted to be back.
“Our workrate was very good (in the drawn game). We were all happy with that. Our levels dropped a small bit in the second half but that was probably our composure. We needed to take a few more seconds to compose ourselves, myself included, in front of the goal.
But overall, watching the match back, we’d take a lot of positives from it and we’ve looked at areas we can improve on.
“Meath are a very strong team but there is more in us which is why we’re glad to have another shot to try and show that.”