Maire O'Callaghan says Cork are 'getting closer and closer to Dublin'
By Daragh Small
Last Updated: 30/11/19 9:09am
There was a stunned silence as Ephie Fitzgerald delivered the news that he would not be continuing on as Cork manager.
The Rebelettes had just been knocked out of the 2019 TG4 All-Ireland Senior Championship by arch-rivals Dublin in the semi-final at Croke Park, and now they had lost their prized leader, off the field.
"I have blocked a lot of it out now but it was silence," said Cork midfielder Maire O'Callaghan.
"Then (captain) Doireann O'Sullivan just managed to say thanks for a great year. That always happens, even when the management are coming back. There were a few words spoken but the bare minimum because everyone was so upset.
"It was just a bit of a shock for us, I know some of the girls were saying they thought it would happen with (coach) James Masters stepping away as well. But it was a lot to take in.
"We were after losing the match and finding out there was going to be a turnover of the management team as well, so it was a sad enough dressing room.
"Especially for the older girls, I know we don't have a lot of them anymore, but when you are trying to impress new management at that stage, it's harder."
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Fast forward three months and the landscape has shifted drastically. Things are looking up for Cork football.
The 2016 All-Ireland winning manager, Fitzgerald, reversed that exit decision and is back in the hot-seat after a meeting with the Cork county board in early October.
And last weekend the county was back claiming silverware in the club game, when Mourneabbey and Donoughmore were crowned All-Ireland senior and junior champions respectively.
The county looks to be on its way back to the top, and having won 11 All-Irelands between 2005 and 2016, O'Callaghan believes its time they returned to the top table and reclaimed the Brendan Martin Cup.
They were beaten in the 2018 decider by Dublin and suffered the same fate in the final four this time around.
But O'Callaghan knows her county have all of the right ingredients to launch an assault on Mick Bohan's charges in 2020.
"We were probably a bit disappointed with how we performed in the semi-final against Dublin," said O'Callaghan.
"We are getting closer and closer to Dublin since we lost a lot of the bigger guns. Everyone is enthusiastic going into next year as well.
"Ephie coming back was good news because everyone is fond of him. He brought a lot into it when he came in. He has been with the younger crowd and we know he can bring a lot to the table.
"It was good to know we were back in good hands."