SATURDAY: Cork v Dublin, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 7.35pm. Live on TG4.
IT’S the ultimate test for Cork tomorrow night as the Rebels host Dublin in the Lidl Ladies football league.
These two sides have been the dominant forces in the game for some time and whenever they clash, they always serve up an enthralling game.
In the 2019 league semi-final, extra-time was needed to separate the sides, with the Rebels going on to lift the cup in the last year it was played to conclusion.
With both teams having won their respective opening ties, the winner here will be in the semi-final with a game to spare.
With a shortened league campaign, both sides will want to ensure they progress to give them another outing ahead of the championship in the coming weeks.
Off the pitch, there would be friendships among the players, but on it, there is no love lost and that’s the way it should be.
There is a mutual respect there, but both camps will be aiming to win this one and get the upper hand for what is the most likely pairing for the All-Ireland final come September, assuming they are kept apart at the semi-final stages.
In a regular season both sides would have used the league to give players game time to help bed in some of the new additions in the squad. Both did that in their first outing and no doubt will continue to do so throughout their respective league campaigns.
Bohan will very much be of the same opinion and with only one league title to their names, you can see Dublin have traditionally used the league to look at players and deciding if they are up to the required standard or not.
It has thrown up plenty of players for them over the last few years and last Sunday, in their win over Waterford, that was the case again.
Former Irish rugby star, Hannah Tyrell marked her return to inter-county football by scoring 1-5.
Add in former minor keeper Abby Shiels making her debut, and they have added two quality players to their panel in those two players alone; there will be others.
With a scoring return like Tyrell’s, the loss of retired star forward Noelle Healy might not be as bad as first thought.
Orlagh Nolan and Leah Caffrey were also in top form in defence and up front, their captain, Sinead Aherne, led by example, hitting 1-7 over the hour. Nolan also showed that she is capable of moving forward; the corner-back got one of their six goals in a 6-15 to 2-12 win.
Cork are a different proposition, though, and with home advantage, they will be confident of getting the better of their archrivals.
Fitzgerald knows they will have to improve on their showing against Tipperary last Friday night to do that. In the end, his side ran out 3-15 to 2-6 winners.
But that doesn’t tell the full story; at half-time they were only two points up, having leaked 2-4 while playing with a strong wind.
Turning to play with the wind, Tipp might have felt they were in with a chance of causing an upset.
But a few words from the Cork management at the break ensured that they upped the intensity for the second half and Tipp were no match for them.
Cork outscored their opponents 2-6 to two points, dominated the half and they played at a level expected of them. They won’t have been happy with their overall game, but to be fair, it was the opening game of the season and mistakes were to be expected.
On the plus side for Cork there were top-class displays from the likes of Sadhbh O’Leary, Roisin Phelan, Erika O’Shea, Melissa Duggan, and Libby Coppinger, the latter introduced at half-time.
It has the potential to be a cracker and one thing is for sure — both sides are going to give it everything to take the points on offer and perhaps lay down a marker for later in the year.