Cork keeper O'Brien wary of Tyrrell threat
By John Harrington
Cork Ladies Football goalkeeper, Martina O’Brien, is all too aware of the threat that Dublin’s Hannah Tyrell will pose in Saturday’s Lidl Division One ladies football final.
Recently retired rugby international Tyrell has been in sensational form since rejoining the Dublin panel after an absence of seven years.
She was particularly good in the hugely entertaining League match that Dublin and Cork played last May, scoring a personal tally of 2-7 including a spectacular 2-2 burst in the space of just three minutes.
But as much as Tyrell will take a lot of watching on Saturday, O’Brien believes Cork will come unstuck if they focus too much on neutralising her threat.
“She's coming from a great pedigree,” says O’Brien. “She's had how many years of playing professional rugby at the highest standard.
“She really is something else. Like, in fairness she really tore us apart that day and you've seen in the last couple of matches that she's played that she's a real asset to them.
“I don't think she missed a kick that day against us, she has a serious, serious leg on her. Look, I suppose you can't pinpoint any one player, though.
“Especially when you're playing the likes of Dublin because they have players throughout the pitch and are never relying on just one person to get over the line.
“They have great players from goalkeeper upwards. We'll obviously keep one eye on someone like Hannah but you have to keep an eye on the rest of the team as well so we won't be overly focused on any one player.”
Cork lost that League meeting in May by 3-15 to 4-11 but at various stages in the contest they looked more than a match for the four-in-row All-Ireland champions.
Having played second-fiddle to the all-conquering Dubs for a number of years now, are they finally closing the gap?
“We'd like to think it is anyway,” says O’Brien. “What we're trying to do is obviously go on and try to win things and win championships and win leagues and Dublin are standing in everyone's way.
“We feel like we have progressed and made strides in that over the last couple of years. We're hoping to bridge that gap this year.
“On Saturday we hope that we can bring that extra little bit that might get us over the line.
“We're setting our sights on winning every game we play. It doesn't matter if it's Dublin, Mayo, Galway, or Armagh, whoever we play we want to win. Saturday is a final and we want to take the Cup home whether Dublin are there or not.
“It's important for us on Saturday for ourselves more than anything really to build confidence in the squad and to show we're going in the right direction.”
By now the challenge of taking down this dominant Dublin team must be as much a mental one as a physical one, and Cork have down a lot of work on the sports psychology front to develop the self-confidence and mental resilience required.
“It's really a big thing, definitely now,” says O’Brien of sports psychology. “We have someone who works with us on that, Barry Corkery, he's really good and has given us a great insight into how sports psychology can help and improve those little percentages that we need to improve.
“Every player is an individual in themselves and they will either feed into that and some players won't actually need it.
“We are definitely working on that side of it, probably no more than any other team, but I do think it pays dividends and it does help you in the sense that you can develop a different outlook on games with someone like that in your backroom team.”