To say Cork are a powerhouse in ladies football would be an understatement From 2005-2016 they won 11 out of 12 all Irelands only missing out in 2010 to Dublin , as a county they collected 65 out of a possible 180 all stars available in that time. (sixty-five). they’ve won 14 out of the last 15 Munster titles and 13 out of the last 14 division 1 league titles and in 2014 the Cork senior ladies football team were voted RTE sports team of the year. Juliet Murphy , Geraldine O’flynn , Brid Stack and Briege Corkery twice all collected the player of the year award. There was no shortage of role models for Doireann O’sullivan as a young aspiring ladies footballer in the rebel county.
“There was 10 or 12 girls who made winning the 11 out of 12 all irelands possible growing up my role models would have been Juliet Murphy just because Mourneabbey used to be always playing Donoughmore and they would have won a number of senior titles so she would have been a role model for me growing up then Valerie Mulcahy would have been another one, I had done a couple of cul camps with Valerie and I was watching the way she was kicking and that so then in 2012 when I got to play alongside those girls it was a privilege so I kind of came full circle”
Doireann plays her club football with Mourneabbey another utterly dominant team in recent times. They’ve won 6 consecutive Cork and Munster championships while they were beaten in this years Cork final by west cork they have been cleared to defend their Munster crown after Christmas as west cork are a divisional side. In the all Ireland series they were semi finalists in 2016 and runners up in 2014,2015 and 2017 before finally making the breakthrough in 2018 and backing that up with another all Ireland win in 2019. Simply outrageous achievements. Doireann says Shane Roynane has been a key part of their success.
“Mourneabbey won the junior in 2005 and then the intermediate in 2007 but then we couldn’t really bridge the gap from intermediate to senior we had won a lot at minor and u21 but we weren’t really achieving at senior level until Shane Roynane came on board with us I think he brought a professionalism that we hadn’t been used to in terms of strength and conditioning, nutrition ,video analysis and a sports psychologist he really brought us to a new level we got a huge backing from the club we done a lot of fundraising we done everything we could to be the best we could be we had a lot of girls playing at inter county level and yet we weren’t seeing the success at club level so we knew we had the potential to be successful but it wasn’t until shane came on board in 2014 that we actually won countys Munsters and then all irelands “
She feels that the hurt from the all Ireland final defeats made them closer as a group and drove them on to get over the line in 2018 and 2019
“The first all ireland we lost i felt we left it behind us the other two I thought the better team won but definitely the first one haunts a lot of us I think if we had won those all irelands we probably would have split as a group I don’t think we would have stayed at it as long the defeats brought us closer together at the start of each year we had one goal and that was to win an all ireland we had come so close for three years we knew it would take very little to get us over the line but i think it became a psychological thing then that were we good enough or were we always going to be runners up so it definitely drove us on and kept us all playing a lot longer than i think we would have been”
Dublin have won the last 3 all Ireland titles in a row and are waiting in the final again this year for either Cork or Galway. Corks last final appearance was in 2018 where Dublin won by five points. This was Doireann’s sixth all Ireland final to play in and her first ever loss in Croke park but it wasn’t all bad in 2018 because it resulted in collecting her first all-star alongside her sister Ciara.
“We had always been on the other end of it I suppose and your heart would break for the losing team in Croke park I definitely don’t want to be on that side of it again you put so much into the year and you’ve played it out in your mind how you want it to go and worked so hard in training so when it doesn’t come together on the day its heartbreaking because there’s hours upon hours that go into that sixty minute performance so when it doesn’t go your way it’s really tough. I think we were a lot happier the previous year when we won the all ireland and got no all star its a huge privilege to be recognised as one of the top 15 players in the country its massive honour and to get it alongside Ciara was extra special “
This is O’Sullivans 9th year on the panel she has won 5 all Ireland titles in that time but what is interesting about them all Irelands wins is that three of them were by a single point and one was by two points. There’s obviously massive experience within the group and a ruthless winning mentality to keep getting over the line in tight games.
“When I look back at some matches there was often games when we didn’t perform well at all and we still dug out a victory so I think that’s something for us as a current team to improve on if things aren’t going well for us we can still work hard and turn the ball over and put the other team under pressure so looking back now that’s definitely a lesson the older girls would have thought me that no matter how bad things are going for you or how good the other team is and when they get their purple patch just to keep working hard and grind out victories when you look back it was the older girls who stood up for us and showed massive leadership , we’ve had a huge turnover in players in the last couple of years so we are trying to rebuild and get that experience again “
Ladies football is a sports that’s really growing all the time with Lidl and 20×20 really driving the exposure for the game in recent years. In 2019 the attendance record for a women’s all Ireland final was broken yet again as 56,114 spectators watched Dublin complete 3 in a row. It was a jump of 6,000 from 2018 and it was the seventh year in a row where there was a growth in the finals day crowd more than doubling the figure from 2014 which was 27,374. She explains how the standards in the way ladies footballers are looked after have improved since she started playing with Cork.
“Standards have improved 100% to be honest when I think back to when I first started we had no food after training no showers no access to a gym now today we have food after every training session access to showers the pitches we are training on would be a lot better we all have gym membership and access to a strength and conditioning coach attendance at games has gone up it’s all going in the right direction and a massive part of that is thanks to the 20×20 campaign everywhere you look now you are seeing or hearing about it all that stats and figures are going in the right direction and that’s thanks to the LGFA and to Lidl “
On Sunday Doireann will captain Cork in the all Ireland semi final against Galway, since games resumed they beat close rivals Kerry 1-14 to 0-14 and had an emphatic win over Cavan 7-9 to 2-6. Ephie fitzgrald’s charges are moving well Doireann and her sister Ciara O’sullivan will spearhead the attack alongside Saoirse Noonan who balances her time with playing international soccer for Ireland, the return of 2018 all star Roisin Phelan at full back was a welcome boost as it allows Hannah Looney and Maire O’callaghan to provide a strong partnership in midfield , Niamh Cotter will be full of confidence after winning her club championship with Dublin club kilmacud crokes and Kinsale youngster Caoimhe O’callghan is a great option to have from the bench. I asked Doireann how she is handling being the captain this year.
“A massive part of this year is communication just with covid you want to be checking in with girls all the time especially over lockdown when we couldn’t train I made a conscious effort to ring girls or drop them a message it was a lonely time for a lot of people we were used to seeing each other three nights a week and then suddenly that was taken away from us I tried to support girls as much as I could , with captaincy this year I’ve just been trying to show leadership on the pitch setting god standards at training and managing communication between players and management I don’t think my role has changed a huge pile between player and captain”
“We were delighted with the two wins so far we have played Galway a lot recently we are familiar with each other so there won’t be too much video analysis needed Galway have huge speed and they are very strong down the centre but yeah the mood in our camp is good there’s 38 girls training with us only 30 can go to a match on any given day so there is huge competition to get onto that 30 and then to get onto the 15 who start so training is quite intense at the moment girls are trying to put their best foot forward and get picked “
with Mourneabbey Doireann has won 6 Cork championships , 6 Munster clubs and 2 all Ireland clubs. With Cork she’s won 6 division 1 league titles 6 Munsters , 5 all Irelands and one all star. Her sister Ciara is also an 8 time all Ireland winner with cork and a 4 time all star. They are going to need a bigger trophy cabinet in the O’Sullivans house.