This Sunday the wait ends for Emma O’Driscoll who will line out between the posts in Croke Park for the first time.
Patience is essential for all goalkeepers, O’Driscoll was a sub when Clare claimed the All-Ireland Intermediate title in 2009, in the intervening years she made the jersey her own. However she had injury to contend with earlier in the year and during this spell Ciara Harvey took over responsibilities and managed to hold on to the number one spot, since their quarter-final win over Tyrone Harvey has sustained a foot injury and it has resulted in Emma returning between the posts.
“We’ve had a crazy year this year it’s been kind of a joint effort between Ciara Harvey and myself. Ciara’s carrying an injury at the moment, her foot is essentially broken so I got my chance in the semi-final and who knows what will happen the next day but she has been an incredible goalie all year so it’s funny how it’s panned out” the Kilmaley woman told The Clare Herald.
Reaching the All-Ireland Final is “a dream come true” for Emma who was a dual-player in 2015 but concentrated soley on Ladies Football this year.
Communication is essential for O’Driscoll, she admits that having captain Laurie Ryan positioned in front of her at full-back allows her to rest her vocal chords occasionally which the primary school teacher duly welcomes.
“Some days you definitely have to be louder than others but communication is key in the backline especially with the game becoming so technical but we have a gem in there in Laurie Ryan who’s well able to shout and roar. We’re well used to playing with one another, she is a clubmate of mine, it is something you work on, it has evolved in the game with the positional switches among the forwards so if you don’t have good communication with your backs you’re really on the backfoot so I do tend to shout a bit”.
Few players on the field come under as much scrutiny as the goalkeeper. Custodians are hailed for a great save or lamented for a blunder, now with a growing emphasis on retaining primary possession through kickouts there is an even greater focus on them.
Emma gives an insight into what goes through her mind when an opposing attacker is bearing down on goal preparing to strike on goal. “You don’t think, we’ve done a massive amount on goalkeeping skills and drills this year with Paul Mannion who’s an accomplished Mayo goalkeeper and you can see the groundwork that he’s been doing, breaking it down into every little piece is actually definitelt working. You don’t get time to think, you just practice the skills, practice the drills and hope they’ll come into place. When it comes straight for you, you literally go what way your mind tells you I don’t know what it is”.
On the subject of kickouts the Banner Ladies clubwoman spoke of how important it is to win them. “Before it was just a long boot out the field and you were hoping for the best. The pressure that comes straight on your backs after having to defend either a score or a wide, the pressure is just immense so you’ve to be extremely focused, there’s a lot of tactics around kickouts, no coach leaves any team out there without any sort of a plan and you try and formulate that in training, you hope it goes right on the day otherwise the pressure if it turns as fast as that your backs can’t catch their breath”.
Reactions, kickouts, communication, saves, patience, a lifetime of training comes to fruition for Emma O’Driscoll on Sunday, she’s been waiting for the chance and now she’s ready for the dream to become a reality.