My sports hero: Cora Staunton

An eleven-time All-Star, four-time intercounty All-Ireland winner, six Club All-Irelands medals. My sports hero is Cora Staunton.

There has been no powerhouse to have dominated the game of Gaelic footballers quite like Cora has. Others have played well on teams decorated with talent but Staunton’s ability to drag teams to glory kicking and screaming is what separates her from the truly brilliant.

She was always a class above the rest, with her dedication, commitment and love of the game something that must be seen in a crunch club or intercounty game to be realised.

Staunton’s character throughout her career makes her far in a way the most inspirational sports star out there. Add into the equation that she has been an amateur athlete for her LGFA career, and that honour is greater still.

Cora first started for the Mayo seniors at the age of thirteen and dominated the intercounty scene up until the 2018 season.

Staunton was playing on more than seven different teams. All her school teams, all her club teams and all county teams from U-14 up to senior.

To add to this her personal struggles off the field really show her strength of character. Her mother passed away when Staunton was only sixteen.

Staunton took the helm at home and on the field in the following years playing football of individual brilliance the game had never seen scoring 2-2 against Waterford in an All-Ireland final and more recently being key in toppling the Rebels in 2017.

The rebels had dominated Gaelic football for the noughties, but Staunton managed to inspire a young Mayo outfit to topple them in 2017.

Being marked by up to six Cork women at times Staunton still found the strength and mustered up the will to power and jink through a solid defence and power the ball to the back of the net.

Her “never say die” attitude and savage competitiveness personified in the move.

She is a winner, provider, playmaker, scorer, free-taker and fulcrum for every team she plays on.

At the age of 36, not content to have conquered one world, Staunton decided to go professional in Aussie rules football and instantly became a key player for the Sydney Giants.

If anyone needed a clue as to the ferociousness to which Staunton brings to her game, then it was realised soon in the contact sport down under.

She played on in a game after breaking her nose as if there was nothing wrong with her. Kicking the ball over and holding off tackles at ease.

Having climbed every feat in Irish women’s sport unique to her code Staunton was a certainty to be the first and notably worthy Irish women to bring out a sports autobiography ‘Game Changer’.

Her story is the most compelling because it was riddled with challenges and adversity that she must overcome.

Sure, Staunton could have been on a hyper-successful team like the Cork footballers, but her drive to help teams overachieve and to spark glory from individual brilliance in a team sport cannot be underestimated and has not (and arguably will not) be imitated by any athlete