WITH Doireann O’Sullivan not in the Cork matchday squad for their League opener against Galway in Mallow on Saturday (1pm), manager Ephie Fitzgerald has named goalkeeper Martina O’Brien as team captain.
O’Brien is one of 10 players who started in the 2018 TG4 All-Ireland final loss to Dublin named to line out from the throw-in against the visiting Tribeswomen.
Shauna Kelly, Hannah Looney, Ashling Hutchings, Emma Spillane, Melissa Duggan, Aine O’Sullivan, Libby Coppinger, Eimear Scally and Orla Finn are also included in an impressive Cork line-up, while Niamh Cotter makes a welcome return to the set-up.
Twin sisters Eimear and Daire Kiely, from Valley Rovers, are named in the Cork starting team, along with other former All-Ireland Minor A medallists, Ciara McCarthy and Laura O’Mahony.
Opponents Galway line out with nine players who started against Dublin in last year’s TG4 All-Ireland semi-final defeat – Fabienne Cooney, Sarah Lynch, Charlotte Cooney, Aine McDonagh, Louise Ward, Olivia Divilly, captain Tracey Leonard, Roisin Leonard and Leanne Coen.
Emer Flaherty, 2004 All-Ireland medallist and two-time All-Star, confirmed her retirement from inter-county football this week.
Dublin manager Mick Bohan has named eight of the team that lined out in last September’s TG4 All-Ireland final for the Lidl National Football League Division 1 opener against Donegal at Croke Park (5pm, eir sport).
With captain Sinéad Aherne not listed in the matchday squad, goalkeeper Ciara Trant will captain the Sky Blues as they begin the defence of their League crown.
Trant, Martha Byrne, Niamh Collins, Olwen Carey, Siobhán McGrath, Carla Rowe, Nicole Owens and Niamh McEvoy all started against Cork in the 2018 TG4 All-Ireland decider.
Regular starters Lauren Magee and Lyndsey Davey are named among the substitutes but 2018 TG4 Senior Players’ Player of the Year Aherne, Sinead Goldrick, Leah Caffrey, Sinead Finnegan and Noelle Healy are not listed, as Bohan runs the rule over an extended panel.
Former Republic of Ireland soccer international Siobhán Killeen, who scored 5-4 in the 2018 All-Ireland Intermediate Club Final for Clontarf, is on the bench while clubmate Sarah Fagan, who captained the team, is handed the chance to impress at left-half-back.
Rachel Ruddy, a winner of two All-Ireland senior medals and two All-Star awards, is on the bench after returning to the squad following a year away.
Opponents Donegal will be without the services of Yvonne Bonner, who is on a stint with the Greater Western Sydney Giants in the Australian Women’s AFL.
Boss Maxi Curran has six players listed who started Donegal’s last competitive fixture – the 2018 TG4 All-Ireland semi-final loss to Cork.
All-Star Treasa Doherty, Nicole McLaughlin, Katy Herron, Niamh Hegarty, skipper Karen Guthrie and ace scorer Geraldine McLaughlin will bring much-needed experience to Croke Park on Saturday evening.
Mayo manager Peter Leahy has handed League debuts to Laura Brennan, Roisin Flynn, Ciara McManamon, Noirin Moran, Dayna Finn and Emma Needham for Sunday’s home fixture with visitors Tipperary, who are without the services of Aisling McCarthy, as she prepares for a season with the Western Bulldogs in the Australian Women’s AFL.
Mayo will be captained by Niamh Kelly, while Samantha Lambert will lead the Premier County into an historic season in the top flight.
Also on Sunday, Westmeath host Monaghan as the 2019 Lidl NFL season gets underway.
Fiona Claffey will captain Westmeath, with Cora Courtney confirmed as Monaghan skipper.
CORK (v Galway): M O’Brien (c); S Kelly, H Looney, A Hutchings; E Spillane, M Duggan, D Kiely; C McCarthy, A O’Sullivan; E Kiely, N Cotter, L O’Mahony; L Coppinger, E Scally, O Finn.