Phelan is refreshed after a Christmas break from ladies football

Phelan is refreshed after a Christmas break from ladies football
Roisín Phelan is now a vital defender in the Cork rearguard. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE

Mary White

Ladies Football

CORK'S Roisín Phelan is by no means underestimating Donegal ahead of Sunday's seventh round-robin tie in Mallow at noon.

For a start, she's likely to come up against All-Star winner Geraldine McLaughlin - a player who managed to amass 4-12 for Letterkenny IT in the 2016 All-Ireland colleges final.

Her threat, and that of the likes of Yvonne McMonagle, will ensure a busy shift for the fourth-year UCC dentistry student, but Phelan is more than ready.

Having taken a brief break from college football given her study workload, the Aghada woman returned to Shane Ronayane's UCC side just ahead of the O'Connor Cup showdown three weeks ago against UL, and it's obvious the extra game time has kept her sharp for intercounty football.

"I decided not to play because things were fairly busy in college, but I got a few phonecalls from the girls asking me to go back, and I couldn't keep saying no! It made sense though because it meant playing games at championship pace at this time of the year, which you don't really get with Cork, so it was a good decision."

Phelan and UCC - who are captained by Doireann O'Sullivan - progressed to the final having ended UCD's reign, with her fellow Cork teammates Niamh Cotter netting twice and Libby Coppinger another, to set up a final showdown against University Limerick in Mayo.

"We did very well against UCD in the semi-final, and it was some turnaround really because we lost to them by 10 points last year, and won by 10 this year, so it was a 20-point difference, and that was a confidence boost.

"Then for the final I thought we had a good match but, to be honest, I don't think we got the breaks when we needed them. There were a few goal opportunities, or the keeper saved it, and we had plenty of shots, but the rub of the green wasn't with us.

"To win big matches like that, that are so tight, you have to have some form of luck on your side."

That defeat was followed by a win away to Monaghan, and another against then joint table-toppers Galway last Sunday, and Phelan and Co were happy with their three-point win to go top of the Division 1 Lidl National League.

"We were delighted with the result and it sets us up nicely for the Donegal game. We dealt well with their forward fire power and our forwards working well upfront.

"We slipped up a bit for the two goals, but bar that we were happy that they just scored four points, two of which were from play, so that was pleasing. It's a credit really to the workrate everyone put in."

Having won 1-11 to 2-5, the closing stages were dicey as Galway drove at the Cork defence to try sneak a winner, but Phelan believes Cork did well to curtail any last minute scores.

"Obviously they scored the two goals so we knew they had it in them to score a third, but every time they made a charge, you had the likes of Ciara O'Sullivan and Orla Finn tracking back, so that really helped us block things in the last few minutes."

With the recent news that former centre-back Deirdre O'Reilly has retired, but that full-back Brid Stack is back in the mix again for Ephie Fitzgerald, Phelan is happy to look towards the future.

"Dee is a massive loss in that she's one of the best ever in the game and she's a talisman really, so all you can do is say thanks and wish her the best of luck. She is a big loss, but it's up to the rest of us to fill that space.

"Brid coming back is fantastic news. Getting the Player of the Year back is such a coup, and hopefully she'll bring that form into this season again."

Phelan will start by managing her own spot at full-back however, with McLaughlin and McMonagle likely to cause a headache or two for Cork in Mallow.

"They're in contention for a top four place and they came out at the start all guns blazing, and they kept that form going too. 

"They've some serious players up front, and Roisin Friel is another great player, so they're a potent line. The onus now though is on us to stop that threat on Sunday."

Verdict: Cork

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