THREE Cork ladies football sides are in action in All-Ireland semi-finals on Sunday, with all having a great chance of reaching their respective finals.
Two of them, Mourneabbey and Donoughmore, are at home whilst Inch Rovers are away to.
For Mourneabbey they are now two wins away from retaining their All-Ireland title, which they won last December. It was no more than they deserved and have been one of the most consistent sides in this competition over the last six years of so. In that time they reached the semi-final every year and were in five finals before they finally won.
Anyone who was present at Parnell Park on the night would have seen just how much it meant not just to the team but to their vast band of supporters as well, To their credit they travel the country with them and have no doubt they will turn out in numbers on Sunday, especially with home advantage.
In the semi-final they will take on Monaghan and Ulster champions, Donaghmoyne, who won their 12th Ulster title the same day that Mourneabbey were making it six in-a-row in Munster.
They have had a few battles over the years and Donaghmoyne are one of the sides that denied the Cork champions All-Ireland success.
They have talented players all over the pitch and will count on the likes of Eimear Traynor, Cathriona McConnell, Louise Kerley, Lauren Garland, Cora Courtney and captain Hazel Kingham to see them through. Donaghmoyne clinched their 12th title in dramatic fashion, with late points from Garland, aged 17, and Kerley, aged 18, eventually seeing them shake off the resilient challenge of Termon for a two-point victory.
This win will be a massive boost to them and they will travel in confident form.
Another player they will look to is 35-year-old mother of four, Amanda Finnegan. Playing under her maiden name of Amanda Casey, her 10 seasons representing Monaghan on the inter-county scene came after the birth of her daughter Emma, who is now 15.
In between the birth of Ted, who is four since April, and daughter Feren, who turns two next week, Amanda managed to win her fourth and fifth All-Ireland senior club titles.
She was captain for the 2016 victory over Foxrock-Cabinteely, but when Daithí, the latest addition to her and Pete (her husband’s) family arrived eight months ago, she finally believed that her footballing career was over. Now just two weeks after winning her 11th Ulster Senior Club title she is preparing to face Mourneabbey on Sunday and has the dedication and skill to inspire those around her.
But home advantage will be huge for Mourneabbey, especially having been on the road for the last number of years as the rotation of home provinces moves around.
But they know that they won’t be enough on its own to beat the Ulster side and they will need to be at their best to have any chance of winning.
In the Munster final it was tight and when they needed players to step up they did, especially the likes of Ciara and Doireann O’Sullivan, Noelle Healy and Eimear Meaney.
They are all experienced inter-county stars and that experience, coupled with the experiecne Mourneabbey have built up as a squad over the years was needed against Ballymacarbry.
Add in outstanding performances from the likes of Laura Fitzgerald and and this it a quality Mourneabbey side.
They never panic, no matter what the scoreline as shown in the last two Munster finals in particular. In those games they came from five points down last year and three points down two weeks ago to win.
They have stared straight in the face of every obstacle put in their way and have overcome it and that inner belief they have in each other keeps them going, even when the odds seem stacked against them.
As well as the players when you have the likes of Shane Ronayne and Con O’Sullivan you have an experienced management who just seem to have the knack of making that switch or substitution at the right time.
They certainly won’t be taking Donaghmoyne lightly, but with home advantage and that massive hope support expect Mourneabbey to advance to the final, where they will play the winners of Foxrock Cabinteely v Kilkerrin-Clonberne.
In the intermediate championship Inch Rovers are on the road to Offaly to take on Naomh Ciaran, a side they won’t have known too much about before the last week or two.
They had an impressive 3-10 to 0-7 win over Tinahealy (Wicklow) in the Leinster final. Two of the players they will look to are Ellie McEvoy and Kate Egan, with the former scoring 2-2 and the latter 1-3.
In the Munster final Inch were far too strong for Templemore, winning by 0-12 to 0-2. It took their opponents 47 minutes to score and by then Inch were 0-9 in front.
Defensively they are very strong, led by the likes of Jessica O’Shea and Aoife Higgins. Up front they have plenty of talent at their disposal, with a full-forward line of Anne Marie O’Connor, Aoife Walsh and Annie Walsh.
That line would put fear into the hearts of senior defences not to mind intermediate ones. They got five points between them in the Munster final and you can expect a similar return at the very least on Sunday.
Of the three Cork sides playing they are the only ones away from home so they are under a bit more pressure than the other two, but this is an experienced side and they showed more than enough in the Munster final that it’s going to take a very good side to beat them.
Meath side, Navan O’Mahonys, will make the trip to Donoughmore in the junior championship and whilst they will get a warm welcome off the pitch it will be a little bit different once they cross the white line.
The visitors will look to the likes of Meghan Collins, who got two of their three goals in the Leinster final, along with Aoibheann Leahy, Orlaith Mallon and Laoise McDermott to try and turn over the home side.
Donoughmore will look to the inspirational Rena Buckley to guide them into the final, but they have plenty of other talented players as well.
Up front Aileen Buckley, no relation of Rena, is a handful for any defence, as Galtee Rovers found out in the Munster final.
She put 1-6 past them, with the likes of Niamh Lohan, Eimear O’Reilly and Rena also on the scoreboard. Defensively Michelle Dilworth leads by example and it certainly won’t be for lack of effort if they lose on Sunday.
Whilst there are no guarantees all three Cork sides are more than capable of making their respective finals to hopefully make it a good day for ladies club football in the county.
All-Ireland Senior Club semi-final: Mourneabbey v Donaghmoyne, 1pm.
All-Ireland Intermediate Club semi-final: Naomh Ciaran (Offaly) v Inch Rovers, 2pm.
All-Ireland Junior Club semi-final: Donoughmore v Navan O’Mahonys (Meath), 2pm.