DUBLIN ARE READY TO MAKE HISTORY – O’CONNOR.
Clíodhna O’Connor says Dublin will go into the All-Ireland Ladies Football final against Cork with real belief they can upset the odds – despite having never beaten them in the Championship.
Cork are chasing a ninth All-Ireland title in 10 years and the Dubs will stand in their way in the decider at Croke Park on Sunday.
It will be the sides’ fifth meeting in the Championship with current champions Cork having won all of the previous four.
But goalkeeper O’Connor insists that will not put off Dublin, who led their opponents by nine points during the second half of an All-Ireland quarter-final last season before losing by four after a remarkable turnaround.
She said: “There is no denying this promises to be our toughest game of the year because Cork have been arguably the best team in ladies football over the last 10 years or so.
“They have been quite impressive so far in this year’s Championship, running up some big scores and all in all there is a great balanced look to their side.
“However while Cork have a lot going for them, we feel we have every chance of coming out on top this time. Regardless of the outcome, we try to learn from every game we play against Cork and we are hopeful of putting the lessons we have had to good use.
“Looking back to last year in the Championship, it was hugely disappointing to see such a big advantage eroded before they won.
“They lifted their game and put big pressure on. We were not able to cope but that was 13 months ago and I think we have progressed a lot since then.
“I feel we showed that in especially our last two games in the All-Ireland Series against Galway and Kerry, who provided us with different types of challenges.
“They really put it up to us but we held our nerve on each occasion and came up with the right answers. Obviously this will be a step up given it will be Cork we will be facing and the biggest prize will be up for grabs but we are happy we will be ready.”
O’Connor – who starred for Dublin when they claimed their only All-Ireland to date in 2010 – continued: “If we were to defeat Cork this time it would make the success all the more special than our other one.
“The last time we won the All-Ireland it was Tyrone who we beat in the final and they had defeated Cork earlier in the campaign. Tyrone were like us in that they were for going for a first All-Ireland and that was all that mattered for both teams.
“Again the priority for us this time will be to finish on top but a win over Cork would add to the achievement, given all they have done in recent times.”
O’Connor’s prospects of having the chance to go for glory in the TG4 All-Ireland Championship this term looked bleak earlier this year.
She opted to take an extended break as the National League got under way but re-joined the squad in time to return to action in the final, which Dublin lost to Cork.
And O’Connor is grateful to boss Gregory McGonigle, who took over ahead of the start of this season after stints with the likes of Armagh, Down and Monaghan, for giving her the opportunity to win back her place in the starting 15.
“Before the league began I spoke to Gregory and explained to him that I was exhausted and wanted to take a break,” she revealed.
“He was excellent about it and left the door open for me to possibly go back later in the season.
“But I knew if I was to return I would have to work hard to get into the side again.
“Thankfully, though, it has gone well for me and here I am looking forward to being involved in another All-Ireland final. I owe that to Gregory because another manager might have told me I would not be considered if I chose not to be in the squad in the early part of the year.
“I think it is fair to say that he has been excellent for the team in general too since he came on board.
“He has taken us to the All-Ireland and League finals and also helped us win Leinster. Gregory is straight-up and open with everyone in the squad and has brought out the best in players.
“Also he is not afraid to ask the players questions and allow us to have our say on different things and I think that approach has helped greatly.”