Deirdre O'Reilly might have won yet another All-Ireland Ladies Football title with Cork this week, but she has never forgotten the tough times before they became a major force.

Cork defeated Dublin to notch what was a remarkable 10th All-Ireland success in just 11 years.

And O'Reilly has been part of each and every one of the Rebel County's triumphs as they have dominated the game.

She is a member of a select group to have won 10 medals with Rena Buckley, Briege Corkery, Valerie Mulcahy, Geraldine O’Flynn and Bríd Stack the others who have been on board throughout.

Yet for much of the first six years after O’Reilly first joined the squad, Cork were living in the shadows of the other teams who regularly challenged for the game's top prize.

And she admits she sometimes finds it difficult to believe that Cork have gone on to do so well.

O’Reilly said: "I was first called into the squad in 1999 and we struggled for the first few years.

"Pushing to be in contention for the All-Ireland - never mind actually winning it - seemed to be a long way off for us back then.

"I remember in the Munster Championship we had some bad results, with a few hammerings at the hands of Waterford standing out.

"But Eamonn Ryan took over as manager ahead of the 2004 season and the county did not look back after that. A first provincial title arrived that year and it was followed the next season by our first All-Ireland and National League.

"It has been a fantastic time for everyone connected with Cork and I think we all value the success we have enjoyed."

"There is plenty of time to look at the coming season, but certainly it would be terrific if Cork could catch Kerry - especially given that it is not that long ago that we had never won an All-Ireland."

Cork's latest TG4 All-Ireland final appearance saw them beat the Dubs by two points on Sunday. It was a game where the respective defences worked hard to keep scoring chances at a premium, with O'Reilly doing her bit to try and frustrate their opponents.

She lined out in a back division which included Stack, who plays alongside her in defence for the St Mary's club.

And O'Reilly, who featured in the forwards in her early years with Cork, says the understanding the pair have from St Mary's helps when it comes to playing at inter-county level.

She added: "St Mary's are well represented in the Cork defence with Bríd and myself joined by Geraldine O'Flynn, although she generally plays in the forwards with our club.

"The fact Bríd and I play at the back with the same club certainly helps when it comes to Cork.

"There is a strong understanding there between us and that has developed over the years since I started to play more in defence.

"I did not really like playing as a back at first but I gradually grew into it. For me, I am happy to play anywhere once I am picked."

And O’Reilly continued: "Against Dublin, we had to work hard to try and keep them out because they have such a dangerous attack.

"Having said that, Dublin played with two extra defenders which meant that some of us in the Cork backs were not always marking a player. You had to be ready to pick up a runner as they tended to break very fast.

"Unfortunately for us, Geraldine went off injured in the first half but while losing such a strong player could have thrown us badly, we quickly adjusted.

"There was little to choose between the sides in the first half but we started well in the second half and managed to get on top. But while we pulled away a little, we knew that we could not afford to ease off."

Next term, Cork will aim to draw level with Kerry at the top of the All-Ireland roll of honour by landing the Brendan Martin Cup for the 11th time.

As it stands, O'Reilly is not sure if she will still be in the squad when the new season begins but she knows there is a great incentive there for everyone who was involved this year to look to play on.

She concluded: "I have not given next year much consideration as I just want to try and enjoy our latest win.

"There is plenty of time to look at the coming season, but certainly it would be terrific if Cork could catch Kerry - especially given that it is not that long ago that we had never won an All-Ireland."