Breen shoulders the pain of defeat
WOMEN’S FOOTBALL ALL-IRELAND SENIOR FINAL:AS THE incredible Cork ladies football team rolled on to yet another All-Ireland victory on Sunday, one of the great Croke Park acts of heroism was going on, hidden in plain sight.
Bernie Breen, Kerry’s centre half-back and captain, played all but the first five minutes of the game on one arm, having sustained a serious shoulder injury in pretty much her first involvement in the game.
Although her manager William O’Sullivan described it afterwards as “a broken AC joint”, it was later revealed to have been severe bruising on a shoulder that has been troubling her for some time.
“I’d say it was one of my own players I was in contact with,” said Breen afterwards.
“It just popped or something. I can’t lift it over the head or out in front or anything so it’s disappointing.”
O’Sullivan admitted that substituting Breen wasn’t ever really a serious option, firstly because the player herself wouldn’t have gone especially quietly from the pitch and secondly because he knew that if the rest of the Kerry side saw her go, their goose would have been cooked with the game only five minutes old.
Breen is her side’s heartbeat, an ever-present for Kerry for 14 seasons now. Leaving the pitch wasn’t going to happen. So how do you play an All-Ireland final on one arm?
“I don’t know,” she said. “I had to do it. It kind of puts you on the back foot because you feel you can’t play to your full potential. You just have to get through it. I was able to run and everything, it was just fielding and even passing I couldn’t do that really.”
Even at that, she was still able to catch the first ball that came her way after the injury happened. “Yeah, I did actually. It was coming towards me and I couldn’t leave it there, like. The arm goes up to a certain point and then it feels like it’s going to click. I don’t know what the feeling was like. You just can’t play your full game, maybe 50-60 per cent. I suppose at least I was on the field, at least it didn’t happen a few weeks ago. But look you just play through it, these things happen to everyone.”
Truth be told, Cork would have put Kerry away with a bit to spare even had Breen been in full cry for the whole afternoon.
“They’re just at a different level to everyone else, with All-Ireland medals in every corner of the pitch.
Sunday was Kerry’s first trip to the final since 1993 and it rounds off a successful year for them, all in all. When that Cork team won its first All-Ireland in 2005, none of them had even been to a final before. You’ve got to start somewhere.
“I thought maybe we could do it,” said Breen. “They beat us by six points in the Munster final. I thought we would push on from there but obviously they pushed on as well.
“They say you have to lose one to win one so hopefully we’ll be back next year again.”