No 'shadow boxing' as Cork ladies footballers face Dublin again

No 'shadow boxing' as Cork ladies footballers face Dublin again
Clare O'Shea of Cork in action against Lyndsey Davey of Dublin. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

SUNDAY: Lidl NFL semi-final: Cork v Dublin, Nowlan Park, 2pm.

THE game of 'shadow boxing', was well and truly won by Cork when they clashed with Dublin in the Lidl National Ladies football league recently.

That was the phrase used by Dublin manager, Mick Bohan, after their meeting in Mallow two weeks ago in the final league round-robin tie.

Both sides were well aware in advance that it would take a surprising set of results for them not to be clashing in the league semi-final this weekend so neither wanted to show their full hand, and they didn't.

From the sides that started the All-Ireland final last September, Cork has just six who took to the pitch on the day and Dublin had seven.

You can bet there will be a lot more of the teams that met last year on display on Sunday, but one player that is definitely out is Cork's Roisín Phelan.

She was one of the county's top performers last year and her displays at full-back played a huge part in Cork reaching the All-Ireland final.

Phelan is unavailable due to a change of work which now sees her playing in Dublin and unable to give the commitment, because of her work, to travel up and down for training and games.

So one of the tasks that Cork manager, Ephie Fitzgerald, had in the league this year was to find a new full-back. Anyone involved in the game will tell you that it's not an easy place to play, even if you are a defender and it takes a lot of discipline to play there.

Cork manager Ephie Fitzgerald. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile 
Cork manager Ephie Fitzgerald. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile 

But Ephie seems to have solved the problem as Hannah Looney has played there for most of the league and with every game has been growing in stature in the position.

Against Donegal and Mayo she was simply outstanding and led by example, particularly in the latter tie when Cork were down to 13 for the first nine minutes or so of the second-half.

She continued that good form against Dublin, where she faced the likes of Niamh McEvoy and Noelle Healy at different stages.

Hannah is an outstanding player and is one that will never let you down. She puts everything into every game and it's no great surprise to see her settling into the position and you can bet come championship she will be one of the players Cork will look to.

Sunday will be another step up as the Dublin full-forward line is likely to include Sinead Aherne, McEvoy, Healy and Nicole Owens, with Healy possibly dropping to the half-forward line.

Whatever option they go with Looney, and her fellow defender are in for a busy afternoon and know it will be a lot tougher than their clash in Mallow.

Along with established players, like Eimear Meaney and Melissa Duggan, others that have shone in the league include Valley Rovers Daire and Eimear Kiely.

Again for them Sunday is another step up but so far they have shown they are capable of handling it.

Expect to see the likes of Doireann O'Sullivan, Eimear Scally and Orla Finn return to the starting 15 this weekend, whilst Dublin will most likely welcome back Leah Caffrey, Lyndsey Davey, along with Aherne.

The game two weeks ago was dominated by the Rebels and it will have given them a confidence boost to have beaten the All-Ireland champions and end their losing streak against them, the Dubs also beat them in the league last season.

Sadhbh O'Leary gets away from Eabha Rutledge of Dublin. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Sadhbh O'Leary gets away from Eabha Rutledge of Dublin. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

It will be a different game tomorrow and with a place in the league final at stake there won't be any 'shadow boxing' going on. This time it's a winner takes all scenario as whoever wins this will be favourites to win the final.

Cork's record in the league over the last number of years has been impressive and they were a little unlucky to lose out at the semi-final stage last year to Mayo.

They will want to go one step further this season and continue the good momentum they have built up in recent games.

Dublin, for their part, will be looking to retain the league title and put them in good stead ahead of the championship later in the season.

When they met at Croker last September 50,000 were present on the day. Whilst it will be nowhere near that number on Sunday, both sides will be hoping that fans travel in numbers to support their respective sides.

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