Cork ‘focusing on All-Ireland’ return as new chapter opens against last year’s nemesis

THERE’S A REAL new chapter feel on Leeside.

Shane Ronayne is in the hot-seat, having taken over from Ephie Fitzgerald in September.

New Cork boss Shane Ronayne.

Source: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO

Ronayne, a renowned coach and All-Ireland winner with both Tipperary and Mourneabbey, landed the job after a year with the Waterford men’s footballers, while Fitzgerald went the other way after his six years at the Cork helm.

It’s an interesting change of management, and there’s no questioning the high expectations within the county.

It’s not exactly a secret that the 11-time All-Ireland champions are eyeing a first title since 2016, Fitzgerald’s debut season after the late Eamonn Ryan’s reign of terror.

And it’s a case of so far, so good, according to Erika O’Shea.

“I will always be thankful to Ephie for giving me my break and I could not speak highly enough of him,” the 2021 All-Star begins. “I will always be grateful for everything he has done.

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“Shane Roynane is the same; he is a very experienced manager and he got to the All-Ireland final again with Mourneabbey and they were unlucky [they lost to Kilkerrin-Clonberne on Saturday].

“He is very intense but a very talented coach, I could not speak highly enough of him either. I am excited at the new experience. In pre-season, we undergo a lot of gym work now and a lot of running unfortunately but we are loving every minute of it.”

The Rebels open their Lidl Ladies National Football League Division 1 campaign with a mouth-watering clash against All-Ireland champions Meath on 13 February, as the counties lock horns for the first time since the Royals’ sensational late comeback in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final.

Scenes at the final whistle as Cork fell to Meath in the 2021 All-Ireland semi-final.

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

League holders and long-time rivals Dublin are up next in Croke Park in Round Two, with several more tough tasks to come in the top-flight.

“There is no easy game at inter-county and I don’t think there ever is,” O’Shea nods. “It keeps us on our toes which is good. Shane Roynane is focusing on [getting back to] the All-Ireland final and that is all that is in his head at the moment and we are using the league as experience and hopefully it will be very worthwhile.”

Reflecting on Meath’s historic All-Ireland final win over Dublin and the aftermath, the 19-year-old defender agrees it perhaps twisted the knife given the nature of their gut-wrenching last-four defeat after extra-time.

“I think it brought the Cork team a lot of hurt, but everyone was really respectful of Meath because they are a talented bunch and they worked hard to get where they are.

“It definitely did affect the team, we’re out for blood this year, we’re ready for road and, yeah, it did affect us but happy for them too because they worked so hard from where they came from in intermediate all the way up to senior to win the All-Ireland.

“After the match we were all very hurt by it but we all looked at each other and said, ‘We’re going to pick each other up and come back properly next year,’ and I feel like we all learn from defeats like that.

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In attendance at a photocall to announce that Yoplait are the new sponsors of the LGFA’s Third-Level Championships was UL & Cork’s Erika O’Shea.

Source: SPORTSFILE.

“As I was talking about underage before, not making the panels, I think it makes you stronger to come back and you’re ready for it and you won’t let it happen again.”

“We did gain a bit of confidence too thinking we were so close to this Meath team but I feel like we’re a team that will not take things for granted like that. We know that Meath are obviously going to improve and so will Dublin and all the other teams so we’ll take it one step at a time, and we’re just going to hope for the best.”

A fresh start, a clean slate, with big aims and goals.

“I’m really hoping for the All-Ireland anyway and it’s definitely a new chapter,” O’Shea nods.

“Shane Ronayne now, he’s a very experienced man and I can’t wait to work alongside him this year. Hopefully we’ll do it at the end of the year. It’s looking positive at the moment, so hopefully it will keep going that way.”

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