LIKE all outstanding counties picking Cork’s top 15 ladies footballers is no easy task.
For every position there is at least two players that could comfortably slot in and make no difference to the side.
In fact you could argue to pick two sides and if they were on opposite sides of the All-Ireland championship they would probably meet in the final.
Such has been the talent since 2000 or so onwards in the senior ranks, before they won their first of five-in-a- row All-Ireland titles in 2005.
Before that win the likes of Elaine Harte, Juliet Murphy and Brid Stack were already starting to establish themselves as outstanding players.
Read Mary White’s book, Relentless – The Inside Story of the Cork Ladies Footballers - and you will get an insight into what they are all about.
Words like committed, determined, quality, no egos, team, would be just some of the words you would use the describe all involved.
Mention must also be made of Charlie McLaughlin, the Cork manager before Eamonn Ryan took over as coach.
McLaughlin didn’t have any success as the Cork senior manager but he did play a major part in transforming underage ladies football in the county and some of those players went on to become senior stars.
Most have now moved on with no players left now from the 2004-05 squad at this stage, but the likes of Ciara O’Sullivan came along not too long after.
Starting with the ’keeper, the choice really comes down to Elaine Harte and Martina O’Brien, with others like Lisa Crowley unlucky to come along in the era of those two.
Harte was the number one in Cork’s All-Ireland winning years from 2005 to 2013 inclusive, with 2010 the only year they didn’t win the title.
Martina took over then and went on to win medals as the number one choice in 2014, ’15 and ’16, having won a number as understudy to Harte. There is little to choose between the two of them, but the nod just about goes to Harte.
In the full-back line the first quandary is to pick the full-back and slot others into the corners then.
The choice comes down to Bríd Stack, Angela Walsh or Róisín Phelan. No matter which one I pick I do so knowing the other two wouldn’t weaken the team in any way.
A well-respected inter-county player remarked lately that there wasn’t much social isolating if Bríd Stack was marking you and on that basis she gets the number three jersey.
Alongside Bríd in the corners are two of the most tenacious tacklers in the game, both then capable of turning defence into attack at such pace that before the opposition would know it the ball was either over their bar or in the back of the net.
Number two jersey goes to Melissa Duggan and in the other corner is Deirdre O’Reilly – a full-back line that most forwards would dread facing.
The half-back line contains three of the coolest characters you will ever see on a pitch. Nothing ever fazed them and no matter what the situation they never panicked.
Thou shalt not pass was their motto and they were feared as two of them could be seen flying up and down the wings during games.
So lining out at number five is Briege Corkery and on the other wing is Geraldine O’Flynn.
Anchoring the side between them is Rena Buckley, who was also named on the camogie team of the last 40 years by Linda Mellerick and Mary Newman on Wednesday.
When you have eight All-Ireland medals, six All-Stars and were Player of the Year in 2011 then it’s impossible to overlook you for a spot in midfield. That’s the list of honours Juliet Murphy has and you can add in she is the only player to captain Cork to three-in-a-row of titles.
But who do you pair Juliet with? Norita Kelly played alongside her for many years and you could easily slot her in. But we are going for what some will consider a slightly controversial choice to partner Juliet.
Wearing number nine will be Hannah Looney, a powerhouse of the game whose style will compliment Juliet.
Moving to attack a number of players are automatic and simply can’t be left out.
So it’s a case of who you put in with them really is the question.
You can’t name six forwards without having the likes of Mary O’Connor in it, an outstanding ambassador on and off the pitch for ladies football.
Her comment directed at Kilkenny after she captain Cork to glory will never be forgotten. 'We’ll see your four and raise you one', referring to the fact they made it five in-a-row after Kilkenny had made it four.
So we will place Mary at full-forward although she could just as easily slot into the corner.
On either side of her it has to be Valerie Mulcahy and Orla Finn, two prolific scorers for the county.
Centre-forward is Ciara O’Sullivan, one of the hardest working players you will ever see, and who lifts all those around her by example. Although she is not afraid to say a few words when she needs to.
On one side of Ciara is Nollaig Cleary and the other half-forward slot goes to Doireann O’Sullivan, with the likes of Eimear Scally, Annie Walsh, Rhona Ní Bhuachalla and Libby Coppinger very much in the mix as well.
So the starting 15 is:
Elaine Harte; Melissa Duggan, Bríd Stack, Deirdre O’Reilly;
Briege Corkery, Rena Buckley, Geraldine O’Flynn;
Juliet Murphy, Hannah Looney;
Nollaig Cleary, Ciara O’Sullivan, Doireann O’Sullivan;
Valerie Mulcahy, Mary O’Connor, Orla Finn.
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