WHEN picking the Cork ladies football team of the decade you could easily come up with two if not three selections.
Such has been the standard over the last 10 years they must be in the running for Team of the Decade award!
You could name two sides and not a single position would be weaker than the first 15.
When you look to the players than you can choose from — the likes of Rena Buckley, Briege Corkery, Julie Murphy, Brid Stack, Geraldine O’Flynn, Ciara O’Sullivan and Orla Finn then no matter what 15 you name you know that as many will disagree as agree with the choice.
You could put Corkery in any position on the pitch and you know she would be outstanding, with many feeling she stopped playing football at county level too soon.
During her time in the red jersey she has lined out in the number five, seven and at midfield and on a couple of occasions in the full-back line.
So starting with the keeper it’s really a straight choice between Elaine Harte and Martina O’Brien.
Both are outstanding shotstoppers, but for the fact she was around for most of the decade O’Brien gets the nod. Others worth a mention include the likes of Lisa Crowley, Meabh O’Sullivan and Caomhne Moore, In the full-back line you are choosing from Bríd Stack, Eimear Meaney, Deirdre O’Reilly, Angela Walsh, Ann Marie Walsh, Hannah Looney and Melissa Duggan, and more.
Any three would make a formidable line and one that not too many attackers would fancy facing. Stack gets the nod at full-back, known for being tenacious in the tackle, a superb marker and well able to burst forward to set up an attack.
The exact same could be said of Duggan and she has probably been Cork’s most consistent player over the last number of years.
Some of her displays have been outstanding and on more than one occasion it was puzzling how others, not her, were named Player of the Game. It was a burst from Melissa in the league semi-final against Dublin that she started in her own full-back line and ended up pointing that was a critical score that day in Cork’s win.
You could as easily name her in the half-back line but for this team, she lines out in the corner. In the other corner is Deirdre O’Reilly, again one that fits the bill of the other two and probably one of the toughest defenders to wear the red jersey.
The half-back line picks itself really and it’s hard to argue against the combination of Briege Corkery, Rena Buckley and Geraldine O’Flynn. All three were simply sublime players and ones that you knew were going to give it everything game after game.
To them it didn’t matter if it was a challenge game or an All-Ireland final it was all about putting in a performance to the best of their ability and they knew if they did so the rest would take care of itself.
In the famous comeback against Dublin in 2014, when Cork came from 10 points down with 15 minutes to go, it was O’Flynn who kicked the winning point to seal another All-Ireland title for the Rebel county.
The number five jersey goes to Corkery and it would take more space than is available here to discuss just how good a player she is. I will simply sum it up by saying class and one who has never left all her success go to her head.
She wouldn’t think twice about spending half an hour kicking a ball around Croke Park with a few young players after an All-Ireland final if they asked her.
Rena also played in midfield as well as centre-back and like Corkery is simply a legend of the game and we are naming her at number six as this was where she played when leading Cork to All-Ireland glory in 2012.
Midfield spots go to Juliet Murphy and Niamh Cotter, with the likes of Norita Kelly and Ashling Hutchings unlucky to lose out.
Murphy and Cotter have it all in their game, well able to defend and then burst forward to either set up or score themselves.
The half-forward line has at least eight to 10 players to choose from but centre-forward jersey goes to Ciara O’Sullivan, again another player who gives it everything and one capable of turning a match with a killer pass or score.
Eimear Scally and Annie Walsh are on either side of her, with both capable of playing at 10 or 12. Scally is the type of player defenders hate to play against, as she can turn either way and with her pace burst past you before you know it.
Walsh, in my view, was one of the most under-rated players outside of the Cork set-up that played for her county. Teak tough in the tackle and rowed in with more than her fair share of scores as well. Also capable of dropping back to help out in the midfield area to help out when needed as well.
Valerie Mulcahy wears number 14 and on either side are Orla Finn and Doireann O’Sullivan.
Another line that would strike fear into the hearts of any defenders and all three are well aware of where the posts are. It would be a rare occasion you would come off as losers if you had those three together on the pitch.
Others in the forward line that could just as easily slot in included the likes of Nollaig Cleary, Libby Coppinger, Amy O’Shea and sublime Mary O’Connor.
CORK LADIES FOOTBALL: Martina O'Brien; Melissa Duggan, Brid Stack, Deirdre O'Reilly; Briege Corkery, Rena Buckley, Geraldine O'Flynn; Juliet Murphy, Niamh Cotter; Annie Walsh, Ciara O'Sullivan, Eimear Scally; Doireann O'Sullivan, Valerie Mulcahy and Orla Finn.