Cork ladies football dream team: Tough competitors in the mix for the goalie and defensive positions

Cork ladies football dream team: Tough competitors in the mix for the goalie and defensive positions
Cork defender Angela Walsh being chased by Kerry's Emma Sherwood. Walsh won All-Irelands in both codes for the Rebels. Picture: Des Barry.

IT MAY not be around as long as the Camogie Association but since it was officially formed in 1974 the Ladies Gaelic Football Association has made great strides.

It is now one of the fastest growing sports in the country and the Rebel county has played its part in progressing the game, with many of its household names coming from Cork.

Since they first climbed the steps to collect the Brendan Martin Cup for the first time in 2005 Cork has gone on to win it 11 times. A record that any county would be proud of, winning 11 out of 15 All-Ireland titles.

Time will only tell if they can add another this year with decisions to be made in the coming months as to whether the championship will go ahead at all this year.

In 1973 Cork did play a senior inter-county game against Kerry in which Bridie Brosnan was the pick of the Rebels side, a game they lost 5-10 to 4-11.

The following year Cork, along with Kerry, Roscommon, Laois, Offaly, Galway, Waterford and Tipperary played in the inaugural All-Ireland senior football championship and they have played in it ever since.

Sadly losses to Kerry were all too common until a series of events in 2004 changed matters and the rest as they say is history.

So picking the best Cork teams since they first started playing is far from easy, seeing as they never reached the All-Ireland finals before 2005, but mention must be made of a special bunch of players.

They include the likes of Anne Brennan, Mary O’Riordan, Anne Duggan, Breda Fitzgerald, Eileen Dunne, Nora O’Callaghan and Mary and Bridie Brosnan.

They were all part of the first team to play a championship match for Cork, something they go down in history for.

Picking six defenders from the vast array of talent that has taken to the pitch for Cork is far from easy, especially when you add in that from 2011 to 2016 five Rebel players were selected as the Senior Players’ Player of the Year.

Of those five players all were defenders except for Juliet Murphy in 2011.

The others were Briege Corkery (twice), Geraldine O’Flynn and Bríd Stack.

Hard-tackling defender Bríd Stack. Picture: Sam Barnes/SPORTSFILE
Hard-tackling defender Bríd Stack. Picture: Sam Barnes/SPORTSFILE

So how can you leave any of them out, but how can you leave Rena Buckley out, Deirdre O’Reilly, Emma Spillane or Melissa Duggan either?

Maybe the sports editor might be in a good mood and let me pick two players for each position and say nothing.

So starting with the goalkeeper it’s a straight shoot-out between Elaine Harte and Martina O’Brien. They have been the dominant two with Harte the number one choice up to 2013 before O’Brien took over.

Others that come into consideration include Lisa Crowley and Caoimhe Moore but even they would admit that the choice would be between Harte and O’Brien.

Both on and off the field Harte was a natural leader and played a major role in the transformation of Cork from also-rans to champions, starting at the AGM of Cork Ladies Football one night which ultimately led to the appointment of Eamonn Ryan as coach to the side.

Go to any Cork training session and see the work that Martina puts in and even in training she gets annoyed if she lets a goal in. Competitive to the core and in any other time or county she would have been the number one choice long before she took over from Harte.

The list of top-class Cork defenders is almost endless.

Match-winner Geraldine O'Flynn. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Match-winner Geraldine O'Flynn. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Start with the Player of the Year award winners — Corkery, Stack and O’Flynn — and you can add another 10 or so to that.

Rena Buckley, Angela Walsh, Deirdre O’Reilly, Ciara Walsh, Emma Spillane, Eimear Meaney, Melissa Duggan, Vera Foley, Linda Barrett, Aishling Hutchings, Roisin Phelan and Shauna Kelly to name a few.

All-action Emma Spillane. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
All-action Emma Spillane. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Add in the Kiely sisters, Daire and Eimear and you could select any of them and it wouldn’t weaken the team in any way.

One could also add Hannah Looney to that mix, who was outstanding at full-back for Cork last season in the absence of Roisin Phelan, but we will keep her for further up the pitch.

To narrow that down to six won’t be easy, with most of them able to play in any of the positions.

Angela Walsh, Stack and Phelan are outstanding full-backs, but all could just as easily slot in at centre-back in the corners.

Briege Corkery is the type of player that if you told her you have to play in goal today, she’d just say grand and get on with it.

The versatile Briege Corkery.
The versatile Briege Corkery.

But she was at her best as a corner or half-back, with her lung bursting runs up the pitch that would sap the energy of any forward trying to track back with her.

Melissa Duggan has taken over that role from Corkery and to compare her to Roy Keane is no stretch of the imagination. Like Keane she has an engine that sees her able to run the length of the pitch as easily in the last minute as the first.

She is also tenacious in the tackle and is recognised as one of the top player markers around today.

So the keepers shortlist is: Elaine Harte, Martina O’Brien, Lisa Crowley and Caoimhne Moore.

Defenders: Briege Corkery, Bríd Stack, Ger O’Flynn, Rena Buckley, Angela Walsh, Deirdre O’Reilly, Ciara Walsh, Emma Spillane, Eimear Meaney, Melissa Duggan, Vera Foley, Linda Barrett, Aishling Hutchings, Roisin Phelan, Shauna Kelly, Eimear and Daire Kiely and there are several others that could also be included.

Tomorrow: The nominations for best midfielders and forwards.

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