Ladies football preview: Can anyone stop Mourneabbey and West Cork?

Ladies football preview: Can anyone stop Mourneabbey and West Cork?
St Val's Bernie Cronin about to pass the ball off against Éire Óg's Isabelle Sheehan in the Ladies Football Senior Championship at Carraigdrohid. Pic: Gavin Browne

WILL it be groundhog day or will one of the other two upset the odds as the Cork senior ladies football championship semi-finals take place today?

For the last few years, it has been Mourneabbey v West Cork in the final, with the former getting the upper hand as they bid to make it seven Cork titles in-a-row this year.

Mourneabbey take on Éire Óg, a side they beat in the group stages and in the other semi-final West Cork face Aghada.

Both last year’s finalists will be favourites to advance, but neither can afford to take their opponents lightly.

West Cork have a vast array of talent in their squad and some can consider themselves unlucky not to be in the starting 15. Plenty of their subs, if not all, would be starters in most club sides. But this is far from a 15-person game now and the introduction of fresh players can be crucial, especially when you get to the semi-final stage, or the final itself.

So far they have to be considered the form side and on paper are not just favourites to beat Aghada, but also to go on and win the final.

Should they progress whoever they play in the final will go on to represent Cork in the Munster championship, should it go ahead as being a divisional side West Cork can’t.

But right now the only thoughts on their minds will be the challenge in front of them and in Aghada they have a tough one.

The Rostellan-based side showed massive spirit and self-belief to get the better of Kinsale in their quarter-final. With two minutes to go Aghada were five points down, but they scored 2-2 in those two minutes to win it by three points.

In that time their big players stood up and were counted with Hannah Looney playing a sublime ball to Emma Farmer for a vital goal that gave them the momentum to go on and win it.

Whilst Looney and Farmer would be among the stars of the side there is far more to Aghada than just those two. Their half-back line of Sally McAlister, Clare Walsh and Mary Leahy is top-class and you can add in others like Sarah Leahy, Miah Sweeney Phelan and Rachel Leahy, to that mix as well.

Manager of the side is Cathal McAlister, the well-known hurling ref, and he has shown there is far more than him that just that with what he has achieved so far with this side.

They won’t fear West Cork and should the divisional side win, they will know they had a right battle on their hands to do so.

For West Cork they can call on Martina O’Brien, Sarah Hayes, Emma Spillane, Melissa Duggan, Libby Coppinger, Daire and Eimear Kiely and captain Aine T O’Sullivan, all quality players.

It’s difficult to see a weak link in their side and that little bit of experience they have over Aghada might just tell in the end here. In the other semi-final the champions, Mourneabbey, will be expected to advance, but they too will know it’s going to be far from easy.

They did beat Éire Óg in the group stages but it took a flurry of late points for them to do so.

For 45-50 minutes Éire Óg were in this game, but the experience of the titleholders told as they hit the final points to win by 0-15 to 0-10.

Éire Óg will have learnt a lot from that game and will also have gained confidence from their win over St Val’s in the quarter-final.

In the likes of Lisa Crowley, Meabh Cahalane, Shauna Cronin and Orlaith Cahalane they have quality players. Add in the prolific Laura and Emma Cleary and they will be an improved side from their loss to Mourneabbey in the group stage.

But the champions are going for seven in-a-row and you don’t get to do that by being a bad side. They have lost a number of players and others were injured so not having a game for the last few weeks will have helped them on the injury front.

They should have Doireann O’Sullivan and Laura Fitzgerald back and Maire O’Callaghan back to full fitness and it would be a major upset if they don’t progress.

Potentially two great games in store, but it’s most likely to be a groundhog day come the final whistle in both. Aso on tonight are the Senior B semi-final which see Bride Rovers take on St Val’s and Kinsale at home to Inch Rovers.

TODAY:

Ladies senior football championship semi-finals: Mourneabbey v Éire Óg, Whitechurch, 2pm; Aghada v West Cork, Cloughduv, 6.30pm.

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