Cork and Dublin in Croke Park: Ladies football at its most intense

Cork and Dublin in Croke Park: Ladies football at its most intense

Maire Ambrose, Cork, clearing the ball against Sarah McKevitt, Tipperary, last weekend. Picture: Brendan Gleeson

SATURDAY: Lidl Women’s National Football League Division One: Dublin v Cork, Croke Park 5pm.

IT may only be the third league outing of the season but you can guarantee one thing, neither Cork or Dublin will want to lose their Lidl NFL Ladies Division One clash at Croke Park tomorrow.

The game is the first in a double-header with Dublin men taking on Monaghan afterwards.

When Cork and Dublin clash you can be guaranteed one thing — two side who will give it everything to win as they hate losing to each other.

Of course neither side likes to lose full stop, but over the last six or seven years a massive rivalry has built up between the two counties.

Dublin suffered at the hands of Cork for several years, including three in-a-row from 2014 to 2016.

But since then Dublin have had the upper hand in the championship and this year they are going for four in-a-row.

But right now the championship will be far from the minds of Cork manager Ephie Fitzgerald and his Dublin counterpart Mick Bohan will only be concentrating on this one and doing everything in their powers to win it.

Last year they met three times, with the Rebels winning two and Dublin one.

Cork beat them in their league clash at Mallow and then in the league semi-final at Nowlan Park. The latter was probably one of the best games of last season and it took extra-time to separate the sides.

Cork were deserving winners on the day, but Dublin got their revenge in the All-Ireland semi-final, before going on to beat Galway in the final. That’s history at this stage but it doesn’t mean it can’t be used as motivation for tomorrow’s tie.

The odds will be slightly stacked against Cork, with the home crowd against them and with the men playing Monaghan afterwards you can expect it to be a sizable one.

Last weekend Dublin got their first win of the season as they travelled to MacHale Park to take on Mayo. Never an easy task but they won by 0-12 to 0-7 and put them in confident form. Carla Rowe was a key player in that win as she hit eight of their points and she will take some watching at Croker.

The win puts them in second place in the table on four points as they drew their first game against Tipperary.

Looking down on them, two points clear, are Cork and they will be hoping that gap will have stretched to five come end of tomorrow’s encounter.

It has been so far so good for Cork as they played some impressive football in their wins over Westmeath and Tipperary, but they games they are games they would have expected to win.

Their first game against Westmeath was an easy win, but last week’s encounter was a bit tougher as they defeated Tipperary in Ardfinnan.

Goals either side of half-time from Aine O’Sullivan were crucial scores in their 2-11 to 1-6 win.

Whilst this was a step up from the Westmeath game Cork will be well aware that Saturday will be a few more steps up and it probably won’t be the last time they face each other this season.

With the league going straight to a final between the top two they are the most likely sides to be there, with the likes of Galway and Mayo others to keep an eye on.

If they are kept apart it would be no great surprise to see them meet in the All-Ireland final later in the year.

Cork have named a strong side with the likes of Martina O’Brien, Roisin Phelan, Melissa Duggan, Ashling Hutchings, Hannah Looney, Aine O’Sullivan and Orla Finn all due to start.

Others that are likely to feature are Libby Coppinger, Brid O’Sullivan and Saoirse Noonan.

Ephie said he intends to use the league to try and help strengthen his squad for the championship and has already given debuts to a number of players, including Sarah Leahy last weekend.

Cork manager Ephie Fitzgerald. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile 
Cork manager Ephie Fitzgerald. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile 

But he is likely to put out his strongest side so far against Dublin and will use their last trip to Croker, when they lost to Dublin as in incentive tomorrow.

Croker in the last few years has gone from a place they never lost to one they haven’t won at since 2016 and that is something they will be determined to put right.

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