HEC Third Level Football Championships Captain’s Day (Preview): Emma Spillane (UCC) – The Evening Echo – March 13 2020

Shooting for the O’Connor Cup final


Daire Walsh

AFTER the heartbreak of last year’s crushing semi-final defeat to UCD, UCC defender Emma Spillane is aiming to reach her maiden O’Connor Cup decider at the Kerry Centre of Excellence.

DCU provide the opposition in Currans on Friday, with the winners progressing to face either defending champions UL or UCD in a showpiece affair the next day.

With the agonising reversal of 12 months ago still fresh in her mind, the Bantry Blues star is quietly confident they can pull it off.

“Last year we were very close to a spot in the final. UCD, I think they got a goal in the dying minutes of the game. They ended up beating us by a point. That was heartbreaking, particularly for the final years [players] on the team. That was their last chance of getting to an O’Connor Cup final,” Spillane acknowledged.

“Some of them had never won an O’Connor Cup. Obviously it was very disappointing for them and for everyone. You’d be hoping, after last year’s disappointment, it will drive us on this year and hopefully we’ll get to the final.”

If they have designs on overcoming the challenge of DCU – O’Connor Shield champions in 2019 – they will need to keep close tabs on the formidable Aishling Moloney. The Tipperary woman has been in sparkling form for both county and college thus far in 2020 and is expected to be the fulcrum of the Metropolitan outfit’s attack.

While UCC boss Shane Ronayne also manages Moloney in the Premier set-up, Spillane feels prior knowledge of the Cahir prodigy can only do so much.

“We played DCU in the league and they’re a phenomenal team. They’ve players who are very hard to stop. Everyone knows Aishling Moloney, she’s an absolute class player.

“Shane would know a lot about her and the way she plays. Hopefully that will help us next Friday. As much as you know about her, it’s not that easy to stop her. No matter what you know about her.”

UCC’s campaign kick-started with a comprehensive loss at the hands of UL, but they subsequently bounced back to reach a seventh consecutive semi-final. Though DCU’s recent 8-20 to 1-7 hammering of Ulster University signalled a major statement of intent, Spillane and her team-mates believe they have grown in stature as the competition has developed.

“We’re constantly improving. We’ve been training very hard the past few weeks. John Cleary and Shane Ronayne have put great work in. It’s fantastic to see us constantly improving and the girls really, really want a place in the final. Hopefully when it comes to next Friday, if we perform, it will be a very close game.”

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