By Jackie Cahill
Bríd O’Sullivan may decide to ease off on the homework next week if Mourneabbey make it through to another All-Ireland Ladies Senior Club Football Final.
That’s because captain O’Sullivan teaches six of her club-mates at St Mary’s Secondary School in Mallow!
Aisling Cronin, Kate O’Brien, Ciara O’Callaghan, Ciara Lawlee, Eva Langford and Anna Ryan are all members of the Mourneabbey squad preparing for Sunday’s trip to Clonberne Sports Field (2pm), where the Cork and Munster champions will tackle Galway’s Kilkerrin-Clonberne in the All-Ireland semi-final.
O’Sullivan revealed last year that the various age groups in the Mourneabbey are ranked as ‘Nazareth’, ‘half-way’ and the ‘creche’.
Nazareth refers to a local nursing home in Mallow while O’Sullivan reckons that her students have firmly taken over the creche mantle!
The 25-year-old smiles: “They’re great girls, brilliant footballers and they’re a pleasure to deal with at training.
“We’re able to find the right balance between me being their team-mate and their teacher at school!”
When Mourneabbey defeated West Cork after a replay to land a fifth successive county title recently, O’Callaghan, Ryan and Cronin all made appearances off the bench.
Indeed, Ryan started the drawn game against West Cork, and the emergence of talented young players supplements what’s already a formidable squad.
On Sunday, Mourneabbey face Kilkerrin-Clonberne in the club championship for the first time since 2015.
In the semi-final three years ago, Mourneabbey made home advantage count but only just, as they dug out a one-point win, 2-11 to 2-10.
And while the perception might be that there’s an elusive All-Ireland title there for the taking after Kilkerrin-Clonberne knocked out last year’s winners Carnacon, O’Sullivan is under no illusions about the scale of the weekend’s task.
The versatile O’Sullivan, who can operate in attack or midfield, recalls: “The last time we played them, it was a point in the difference in Mourneabbey.
“It’s the reverse this time – we’re heading up to them.
“They’re very similar to us, they have a very young team and lots of pace all over the pitch.
“I think that we would be very well matched – and it’s a really big challenge for us.”
Semi-Finalists Mourneabbey, Kilkerrin-Clonberne, Donaghmoyne and Foxrock-Cabinteely are no strangers to this stage of the competition in recent years but of that quartet, only Monaghan stars Donaghmoyne have gone all the way.
O’Sullivan says: “Of the four teams left, we’re all familiar with each other.
“We would have played each other over the last few years and all of the teams have been knocking on the door.
“It is interesting that way and when it comes to this stage of the year, anything can happen.
“It’s just down to what team is able to cope with what the day throws up.
“Even in the Cork championship, we drew with West Cork the first day in the county final.
“We’ve had a few challenges that we’ve had to look back on and look at what happened and what we can do to improve.
“Our experience of this year, in particular, and the experience we’ve had in the last few years might help us this weekend.”
Mourneabbey built on that county final win by adding a fifth successive provincial A title – but the All-Ireland crown is the one they want.
They’ve lost finals in 2014, 2015 and 2017, and O’Sullivan reflects: “You’d look back on all of the finals and say we didn’t play to our potential – but last year (against Carnacon) in particular.
“When you don’t play to your potential, it does give you a reason to come back, you feel you haven’t done yourself justice.
“Hopefully we might be able to do something to right the wrongs of the last couple of years.
“The thing is with Mourneabbey, we’re so close as a group of friends as well.
“Even when we’re not playing football, we stick together and because we are great friends outside of it, everyone on the team has the same mission.
“Because of that, nobody want to let anyone down. I think that’s what maybe brings everybody back year on year.”