For most GAA-orientated children, the dream is to one day wear their club or county jersey at senior level.
Hours are spent in the back garden kicking a ball or swinging a hurley, acting out their favourite moves from their heroes.
Ofttimes, the dream doesn’t materialise but for others, it comes around much sooner than expected.
Eimear Scally was just 13 years of age when she was called up to her club, Éire Óg’s, adult team.
The task might sound daunting but Scally embraced the opportunity and the early start allowed her to mature quickly, something that was a stand-out quality when she was brought into the inter-county scene.
“I was playing on the adult team when I was like 13 or 14. It was the norm for a lot of girls then, not so much now because the numbers are generally increasing with participation in sport but back then it was pretty standard.
“If you could catch and kick a ball you’d be on the adult team so I think playing with my older sisters and older girls helped me without even meaning to do it.
“When I was coming up through the minor levels and playing with the seniors I would have been well grounded.”
No matter how mature you are, walking into a dressing room that contained Valerie Mulcahy, Rena Buckley, Briege Corkery and Bríd Stack must have been overwhelming.
That was the situation Scally found herself in when she was 16 and still a star on the county’s minor side.
“A couple of months previous, before I went in with the seniors, I was at the homecoming taking pictures with all the heroes, with Bríd Stack, and I was laughing then because I was gone back in January and I was training with them and I was mortified!”
“I was a bit nervous but the girls were so understanding about how new players are constantly coming in so they know how to deal with you and how to talk to you and be normal.
“Once you get into the training, it just feels normal. Obviously you’re thinking ‘this is great, playing in Croke Park’ but the people surrounding you are all intercounty footballers the same as you.”
As a young forward looking to make her mark, there were plenty of experienced heads to turn to and her heroes were more than willing to give her advice and help her settle in.
“The girls were so understanding if you went up and asked them a question about anything whether it was football related or outside of football, anything, they wouldn’t laugh at you or anything, they’re all so understanding.
“Having the likes of Ger O’Flynn and Val Mulcahy, especially for me as a forward, having the likes of Val and Nollaig Cleary, it was surreal to learn things off them.
“Attitude was always a thing that they rammed home, attitude will get you anywhere you want as long as you have the right one.”
Scally is now in her sixth year with the Cork senior panel and while she may only be 22, she is one of the more experienced members of the side.
The University of Limerick student has played in five All Ireland finals, missing out in 2017 when her side lost to Mayo at the semi-final stage.
Rather than run away from the situation, Scally headed to Croke Park on final day that year and the experience has made her appreciate her success even more.
“It was really tough. I went with my friend Anna [Galvin] from Kerry and we left with 30 seconds to go before the hooter went because we couldn’t stay for that.”
“Losing to Mayo that year in the semi-final was really hard to take because I was always involved in an All Ireland final and it was the same at underage.
“Underage meant so much to me and we were always involved in a final when I was on the age so it was weird not being in one but you really just don’t take things for granted and I never would.
“I know there’s a lot of great players out there who don’t have an All Ireland or never got to play in Croke Park so it is tough for them so it is just a case of not taking anything for granted.”
After losing out in the 2018 final to Dublin, Cork seem determined to return to Croke Park and right the wrongs. Earlier this year, they claimed the Division 1 League crown and last weekend, they saw off the challenge of Waterford to win back-to-back Munster titles.
Scally doesn’t believe that the side are bringing a different approach to their season but admits that minor amendments have brought Cork on.
“There’s a couple of players this year who have come back onto the panel, ie. Rhona Ní Bhuachalla who was injured last year with a cruciate. Having the likes of her and one or two others who would have stepped up, players are really chomping at the bit now.
“Having a panel there where you know you’re not safe, it’s really drove everyone on.
“Not much has changed, we would have got a nutritionist in and little bits like that, I do think our work ethic has come up another bit this year, but I wouldn’t say a lot has changed, we’re just trying to put in a full 60 minutes rather than 30.”
LGFA players Ciara Trant, Niamh Carr, Áine McDonagh and Eimear Scally were at today’s announcement of AIG’s exclusive insurance offers to LGFA members.
As Official Insurance Partner of the LGFA, AIG revealed exclusive 15% off car insurance & 25% off home insurance for all LGFA members and their families. All adult Intercounty LGFA players receive 25% off car insurance.