Maria O'Sullivan is desperate to leave Cork City on a high after this Saturday's FAI Women's Cup final as she prepares to embark on her American dream.

The 19-year-old goalkeeper was in the stands as a cheering academy player the last time the Leesiders got to the showpiece decider back in 2017.

They beat UCD Waves 1-0 at the Aviva Stadium that day thanks to Clare Shine's well-taken first-half strike and the watching O'Sullivan was inspired.

Now she's preparing to grace the stage herself, as captain no less, but the showdown with Peamount United will be her final game for the Leesiders as she plans to travel to the USA in January to begin a soccer scholarship at Fordham University in New York City.

Had everything gone to plan O'Sullivan would already be Stateside, but the Covid-19 pandemic delayed her emigration, which means she's been able to stick around to help team make it back to the cup final.    

"Everyone is pretty much prepared, mentally prepared," she said. 

"We've just got to keep it going the way it has been. I couldn't have asked for a better send-off to be honest. I was fearful that I might not get a season before I went over. I'm really happy the way it turned out.

"I was 16 at the time [of their last FAI Cup triumph in 2017]. Ronán Collins [now the senior team manager] was head of the academy and he brought us up.

"I watched the game thinking, 'gosh I'd like to be out there some day'. I didn't think it would come so soon to be honest, let alone the fact I'm the captain as well. It adds icing to the cake. I remember sitting there watching it, saying 'this is where I want to be in a couple of years' time'."

O'Sullivan is incredibly mature for a player of her age. Assured, confident and astute enough to know these occasions don't come around too often, she admits it still took a bit of time to adjust to her role as skipper.

"I was kind of shocked when I got the call to be captain. It was new to me but I think I had a natural leader role in me, especially being a goalkeeper too - you kind of have to have that in you regardless. 

"I did have to learn a few things, and the players helped me along the way, especially Ciara McNamara and a few others, Saoirse Noonan too. They were very good at helping me into that role. It was great to have their trust."

O'Sullivan was suspended for the 3-0 loss to Peamount a month ago but has seen them up close enough times to know her team are facing a massive task.

Cork finished fourth in the Women's National League, their best league performance for a decade. However Peamount are the champions, a side laced with international talent.

Cork need something special at Tallaght Stadium, where this game has been switched to having usually being played before the men's match at the Aviva Stadium. 

"Every childhood dream of a soccer player is to play in the national stadium so it is kind of disappointing that it isn't there," O'Sullivan added.

"Watching that game in the Aviva three years ago, I would have loved to have been there. 

"It is disappointing it's in Tallaght rather than the Aviva but at he end of the day it's a 90-minute game, it shouldn't really matter where you're playing. Tallaght is still a great stadium, it's still a great pitch.

"Getting a win in my last game in the FAI Cup final would be terrific."

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Watch the FAI Women's Cup final between Peamount United and Cork City live on RTÉ2 and the RTÉ Player from 2.30pm on Saturday, listen to live commentary on RTÉ Radio 1 or follow our live blog on RTÉ Sport Online and the RTÉ News app.