SUNDAY: Cork v Mayo, Cloughduv, 2pm.
PLAYED three, won three, the league couldn’t make for any better reading for the Cork senior ladies footballers.
After three games, two of them tough away clashes with Tipperary and Dublin, the Rebels top the table on nine points, with both Galway and Mayo on six, all having played the same amount of games.
So it’s so far so good and their win over Dublin two weeks ago at Croke Park will be a huge confidence boost to the side. But they will also be hoping the week’s break won’t have interrupted their momentum as they face another difficult game against Mayo at 2pm on Sunday at Cloughduv.
Mayo were in action against Waterford last weekend as they battled both the elements and their opponents to win by 0-6 to 0-2, the final scoreline showing just how tough it was for both sides.
The winners will take a lot from that win, as having battled the wind in the first half they managed to dominate possession and were level at half-time.
But the drama wasn’t over and the game had to be stopped for a time in the second-half during a hail storm.
Either side of that Mayo managed to added four points to win, with impressive displays from the likes of Rachel Kearns, Maria Reilly, Ciara Whyte, Noirin Moran and Allannah Duffy.
Clashes between these two have served up some great games over the last few years so Cork will know that they will need to be at their best to get the better of Mayo.
With that in mind manager, Ephie Fitzgerald, has named a strong side and has stuck with 14 of the players that started in their win over Dublin two weeks ago.
Closer to the day he may make more changes but for now, the only named change from the team that started against Dublin sees Sadhbh O’Leary in from the start for Saoirse Noonan.
That’s a straight swap as O’Leary replaced Noonan in the tie at Croke Park at half-time and did enough to warrant a start this time.
Defensively Martina O’Brien stays between the posts and the full-back line sees Maria Ambrose and Sarah Leahy flank Roisín Phelan at full-back.
Phelan has been outstanding so far and will only get better as the season goes on as she gets back up to inter-county pace after a year away.
Ambrose is currently playing some of her best football in some time and on the other side, Leahy is showing all the potential that the young Aghada player has at underage level.
Melissa Duggan starts again at centre-back with Laura O’Mahony and Aisling Hutchings on the wings. In the absence of Doireann O’Sullivan Hutchings has taken on the captain’s role and she certainly leads by example.
O’Mahony will be keeping the pressure on the Kiely twins, Daire and Eimear, for a championship start.
With the return of Phelan, it has allowed Hannah Looney to move to midfield and give Cork more options there.
Her strength and physicality are an added bonus in that area alongside Maire O’Callaghan.
Considering the Kiely twins, Eimear Meaney and Shauna Kelly have really featured yet it shows the strength of the Cork side defensively this season.
Up front the likes of Ciara and Doireann O’Sullivan aren’t back yet, but so far to the credit of the rest they haven’t been missed yet.
On Sunday the names starting six sees Orlagh Farmer, Aine O’Sullivan and Laura Cleary in the half-forward line, with Libby Coppinger, O’Leary and Orla Finn inside them.
Any county would be delighted to have them as their starting six and when you have players like Bríd O’Sullivan, Emma Cleary, Noonan and Ciara McCarthy on the bench then this is the strongest looking Cork panel for some time.
All will be looking to nail down their starting spot in the championship so they certainly won’t be holding back against Mayo or any game they get a chance in.
All this is positive from Ephie and Cork’s point-of-view, but not for their opponents. While it won’t be easy expect Cork to keep their winning run going on Sunday.