WILL it be six in-a-row for Mourneabbey, or will West Cork go one better than last year?
That’s the burning question as they face off against each other on Saturday in the Cork Ladies Senior Football final at CIT at 5pm today.
Last year a late point from Sarah Hayes saw the sides end level — but at the second time of asking, Mourneabbey made sure of the result as they advanced to the Munster Championship and ultimately went on to seal the All-Ireland Club Championship title.
Whilst they will want to go into the Munster Championship as Cork champions at the very least, they know they are one step closer to retaining that title as well as West Cork, being a divisional side, can’t go forward to that championship.
So for West Cork it all ends tomorrow (barring another draw) and what better incentive for them than to beat the All-Ireland champions and halt their six-in-a-row bid?
They have already beaten their opponents tomorrow 3-5 to 0-6 in the round robin stage of this competition, but neither side will be overly concerned about that result.
Other group-stage games saw West Cork beat Éire Óg 1-14 to 1-10 and St Val’s by 4-17 to 0-2.
In the semi-final they faced Éire Óg again, and a late goal, which put the icing on the cake, saw them through to the final on a scoreline of 3-13 to 1-7.
It’s no great surprise that they are undefeated in the championship so far when you look at the strength of their squad, and they certainly would put it up to some inter-county sides.
They have Cork players in every line, starting with keeper Martina O’Brien. Add the likes of Clare O’Shea, Emma Spillane, and Eimear Kiely in defence and will take some getting through.
The midfield pairing in the semi-final was Niamh Cotter and Melissa Duggan — without doubt two of the best players in the country, not to mind say Cork. How Cotter wasn’t nominated for an All Star is beyond me, as she was sensational for Cork all season.
In attack, they can call on the likes of Laura O’Mahony, Daire Kiely, Libby Coppinger, and Aine O’Sullivan — again, all quality players.
Coppinger works tirelessly all through any game and often doesn’t get the credit she deserves. More often than not, it will be a pass from her that sets up a score for her club, division, or county.
She is also well aware of where the goal is herself and Libby is one of many that will need careful watching.
At full-forward, Aine T O’Sullivan showed in the semi-final just what she is capable of doing to any side, scoring 2-7.
When you see that their bench includes Bantry duo Eve Murphy and Lucy Coakley, who would get into most starting line-ups, you start to get an idea of just what faces Mourneabbey tomorrow.
But if there is one side that this won’t bother, it’ll be the defending champions. You don’t win five Cork and Munster titles in a row by being a bad side, and you certainly don’t win an All-Ireland title by being one.
In the group stages they beat St Val’s by 1-0 to 0-1 in what was a very low-scoring game in difficult weather conditions. They also had a 7-12 to 3-5 win over Éire Óg, along with the loss to West Cork.
In the semi-final, they faced St Val’s again and on a day where weather conditions were far from suitable for football they came through by 4-13 to 4-4.
Like their opponents, there are plenty of quality players in their ranks, including the O’Sullivan sisters, Meabh, Roisin, Ciara, and Doireann.
Add in the likes of Eimear Meaney, Maire O’Callaghan, Ellie Jack, and Brid O’Sullivan they have quality all through the side. This year they have a three-in-a-row All-Ireland winner amongst them as Dublin star Noelle Healy transferred to them, as she is currently working in Cork.
She played a major part in Dublin’s wins in the All-Ireland semi-final and final, and Mourneabbey will be hoping she does the same for them tomorrow.
On paper, many will fancy West Cork, but Mourneabbey have a determination and spirit to match them and we can expect very little between them come the full-time whistle.