Cork ladies footballers face tough test in Tipp after enjoying Páirc life

Cork ladies footballers face tough test in Tipp after enjoying Páirc life
Saoirse Noonan and Ashling Hutchings of Cork celebrate following the 2020 Lidl Ladies National Football League Division 1 win over Westmeath. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

CORK ladies footballers head to Tipperary on Sunday well aware that they are in for a far tougher challenge that last Saturday’s meeting with Westmeath.

Their second game in Division One of the Lidl National Football league sees them face one of only two sides that defeated them in this competition last year.

That loss came in the last minute at Páirc Uí Rinn when Tipp scored a goal to win and have no doubt with home advantage on Sunday they would like nothing better than repeating that feat again this season.

In Shane Ronayne they have a very experienced manager, who has guided club side Mourneabbey to six Cork titles, six Munster titles in-a-row and add in two All-Ireland titles with them in the last two season as well.

To top it all he won the All-Ireland intermediate title with Tipperary last season as well.

Have no doubt nothing would give him more pleasure than getting the better of the Rebels and it certainly is something his side are well capable of with the game scheduled for 1pm at Ardfinnan.

They got off to a great start last week as they held All-Ireland champions, Dublin, made all the better as it was away from home.

Star player Aishling Moloney played a huge part in their win, scoring 1-6 of their 1-7 tally and she will take some minding.

Her experience is something they will need again against Cork, especially as they had 10 teenagers amongst the 19 players that featured against Dublin.

Nine of the Tipp side featured in the All-Ireland final last year against Meath, and though they may be young in years they have the experience of playing at the top level and they certainly won’t fear taking on Cork.

But they will also be well aware they are taking on one of the top sides in the country and one that is determined to bring the All-Ireland back to Leeside this year.

Manager Ephie Fitzgerald had already said that he will be using the league to try and find a few new players, give them a bit of experience ahead of the championship later in the season.

Like Tipperary the Cork squad is a mix of experienced and young players with Caoimhe O’Callaghan making her senior debut at corner-back against Westmeath last weekend.

Other young players like Laura Cleary and Sadhbh O’Leary both featured, with the latter prominent after starting at corner-forward.

Cleary replaced her in the second-half and she too can be happy with her showing.

Other young players have come into the squad this year and one makes her debut on sunday, with Sarah Leahy from Aghada named at corner-back.

A tough, tenacious player she is one to watch.

As well as the younger players the return of Roisin Phelan at full-back is another massive boost to Cork. She is one of the best full-backs in the game at present and she showed no signs of rustiness on her return last weekend.

In many ways it was a good game to be returning in as it would have been a major upset if Cork lost to Westmeath.

As expected they controlled the game from start to finish and Phelan made sure they didn’t get any sort of a look in for a goal.

It’s early days yet but already the signs are there that the squad is going to be better and stronger than last year as others returning include the likes of Brid O’Sullivan and Ciara McCarthy.

Add in the considerable talent of Ashling Hutchings, Melissa Duggan, Hannah Looney, Aine O’Sullivan and Orla Finn, amongst others, who featured last weekend and the basis is there for a great season. Others yet to return include Niamh Cotter and Ciara and Doireann O’Sullivan and Ephie and his backroom team must be looking around very happy at the talent available to them.

But all that will count for nothing if the results on the pitch don’t match up and Ephie will be working them hard in training at the moment to ensure they do.

Last week’s win over Westmeath was a good start, but Sunday’s test will be far tougher and he will get a better idea of where they are at after this one.

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