Ladies footballers can repeat their league victory over the Kingdom

Ladies footballers can repeat their league victory over the Kingdom
Orla Finn turns away from a challenge from Bernie Breen, Kerry. Picture: Larry Cummins

HAVE no doubt that Cork ladies football manager, Ephie Fitzgerald, would be delighted with a repeat of their league meeting as they face Kerry tomorrow in the Munster final.

The last time the sides met was in the first round of the Lidl National League and the Cork ladies left with a comfortable 2-17 to 0-9 as they made the long trip home from Knocknagoshel.

But Ephie is well aware that his side were much further down the road in their pre-season preparations at that point as Kerry were in some disarray at the time.

But they are far from that now and Cork can expect a far tougher challenge tomorrow as they take to the pitch at CIT, with a 2pm throw-in.

Last year Cork had a poor Munster campaign and were well beaten by Waterford in the first outing.

But not this time, a good league campaign set them up nicely for their opening clash with Tipperary and there was to be no banana skins this time.

Tipperary certainly didn't make it easy for the Rebels, but Ephie's side showed their class to come through by 2-12 to 1-10.

This is only one of two trophies that they can win this season and you can bet that they will be determined to collect their first silverware of the season, especially after losing out in the league semi-final.

The league was the only trophy they won last year, losing out in Munster and then the All-Ireland semi-final and for many of the players, there is a feeling of leaving it behind them in both those semi-finals.

Anyone who was present to witness their league encounter with Mayo and then the semi-final against them would have seen two quality sides go head to head, with the result in the balance right up to the final whistle.

In the league, Cork were the winners, but Mayo overturned that result in the semi-final, winning by two points.

In that game, Cork were a bit unlucky to lose out and even missed a late goal chance that could have seen them win.

But even though they lost and the obvious disappointment that came with that, their thoughts were turning to the Munster campaign even before they left the pitch in Birr.

On the day Ephie expressed his pride in the girls and how they had played during the league and said that now we have six weeks or so to prepare for Munster and that's where our attention will turn to now.

That has always been the mantra of this squad, next game, next challenge and though the faces are much-changed from the side that started out 12 years or so, the mantra remains the same.

Indeed if you look at the players that were available to Ephie over the league campaign you will see that the squad was small in numbers and it's to their credit they way they played and to reach the semi-final was an achievement in itself.

There are still more to return to the squad and will be expected back in the next few weeks, but this game has come too soon for some.

However, they were boosted by the return of Hannah Looney and Meabh Cahalane in recent weeks, with both showing they are going to push hard for starting spots.

Tomorrow they will look to the likes of Martina O'Brien, Emma Spillane, Marie O'Callaghan, Aishling Hutchings, Ciara and Doireann O'Sullivan, to name a few to see them get past the Kingdom.

Add in Melissa Duggan and Orla Finn, who surprisingly didn't make the Team of the League, considering their outstanding displays all through.

Kerry will look to the likes of Louise Ni Mhuircheartaigh, Aislinn Desmond, Eilish O'Leary and Sarah Houlihan, but know they will go in as slight underdogs, especially with the Rebels having home advantage.

But over the last few years, there have been a number of top-class tussles between these sides and Cork will know that Kerry are a far different one to the side they faced in the league.

It should be a fitting final, but at the end of the hour expect Cork's Ciara O'Sullivan to be lifting the cup to secure their first trophy of the season.

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