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Cleary: Cork must be at their best
28 Aug 2015 11:11
It’s days like Saturday when Nollaig Cleary will miss it most.
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The buzz, the camaraderie, the girls...
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In June, Cleary called time on her glittering intercounty career with Cork.
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When the Gabriel Rangers player severed ties with the Rebelettes, she did so with nine All-Ireland senior medals and three All Star awards.
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Even though she hasn't been involved in the set-up, Cleary’s “been to most of the matches this year” and she was present when Kerry defeated Cork to claim the TG4 Munster championship.
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Two years ago, the Kingdom also ruled the province, but when they saw Cork again in the All-Ireland semi-final roles were reversed.
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History could repeat itself in Limerick on Saturday evening, when the neighbours clash for place in the All-Ireland final on 27 September.
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“In the Munster final, Kerry were good all over,” Cleary reflects.
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“It’s hard to pick one particular area – they were out in front every time and up front, they’re not just reliant on one player.
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“Louise (Ní Mhuircheartaigh) is their focal point but any of those forwards are capable of putting the ball over the bar. Megan O’Connell is having a great year.”
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Cleary accepts that Cork have “a lot of improving to do” as they go in search of revenge but they have collected two good victories since the Kerry reverse, against Meath and Galway.
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“Every match they go out and play, team can perform,” Cleary insists. “But in that Munster final, they were a little below par.
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“Briege (Corkery) and Rena (Buckley) had a match that day (with the camogie team) and just didn’t perform as well as they could.
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“Cork know they have a lot of improving to do but they will have put in a lot of work over the last couple of weeks.
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“I’m optimistic of a good performance and at this stage of the competition, you can’t afford not to perform.
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“This is an experienced Kerry team and Cork will have to be at their very best.”
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Cleary will be following Cork’s progress and naturally, she misses all that goes with top level intercounty fare.
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“Yeah, you would really miss it,” Cleary says.
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“Nothing beats the buzz of performing on All-Ireland final day or any of the championship matches – the friends, the training, meeting up with the girls, that kind of thing.
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“I definitely miss it but it’s been a natural transition over the last number of years.
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“All the girls love the game, love playing and love performing on big days"
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“A few players have moved on but it’s the first year or two when you’re not playing that’s a little bit harder.
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“It’s still great to watch the games and meet the other girls who are not playing any more.
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“And we can still watch the likes of Stackie (Bríd Stack), Briege, Rena and Ger (Geraldine O’Flynn) doing their stuff.”
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Cork’s desire to be successful remains undimmed, even though they’re going in search of a tenth All-Ireland crown just 11 seasons.
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It’s been a quite remarkable period of success but it begs the question – where does the hunger for more glory come from year on year?
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Cleary says: “All the girls love the game, love playing and love performing on big days.
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“If Cork were losing or not winning matches, it would be harder to turn around and start the hard work and training in January again.
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“Winning reaps certain rewards and success drives you on for the next year.”
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Same as it’s ever been in Cork.
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