IT was fourth time lucky for Cork’s ladies footballers ahead of their clash with Waterford on Sunday, throw-in 3.30pm at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
It was the fourth time they were involved in a toss for home venue and the first time they won as they see Waterford come to Cork for their quarter-final clash TG4 All-Ireland Senior Ladies Football championship.
With two good wins in the group stages behind them, Cork will start as firm favourites to advance to the semi-final but they won’t be taking their opponents lightly.
In their recent league meeting, Cork won by three points and were pushed all the way by the Deise and they certainly won’t fear taking on the Rebels.
Games between these two have been tight in recent years and not that long ago they caused an upset beating Cork in their Munster championship clash.
Waterford had an impressive win over Tyrone last weekend and will travel high on confidence after that victory.
They are a tough, physical side that have plenty of talented footballers and Cork know they can’t afford to let them get ahead as they are hard to claw back if they do.
Katie Murray is one of those Cork will have to watch closely and her tally of 2-3 against Tyrone tells it own story. Give her half a chance and the ball is either in the back of the net or over the bar. She is comfortable playing anywhere across the full-forward line and it would be no great surprise to see her in one of the corners though.
They will want to keep her away from Roisin Phelan is, without doubt, the best full-back in the game at the moment. Phelan is someone whose level of consistency is unbelievable and she never lets her side down.
It’s a rare day that her opponent gets the better of Roisin and Waterford could easily put Murray into the corner to see would she have better luck there. But when you have the likes of Shauna Kelly, Eimear Meaney, and Marie Ambrose to name a few, for those two positions then whoever they are up against will be in for a tough afternoon.
Marie has recently returned from injury and has been outstanding since her comeback from almost two years out of the game.
Eimear Fennell and Aileen Wall are just two others that Cork will be well aware of as well, but the home side are not short of talented players themselves.
The Rebels showed determination in the round-robin games that they mean business and are hell-bent on reaching the final and it’s going to take a top-class performance to stop them.
But like all sides, injuries can derail your title ambitions and Cork have suffered their fair share of them in the last year or two. Influential midfielder Niamh Cotter is unlikely to kick a ball again this season, effectively meaning she has been on the sidelines for two years now.
Others to have picked up injuries this year include Doireann O’Sullivan, Laura O’Mahony, Emma Spillane, Brid O’Sullivan and Maire O’Callaghan.
But manager, Ephie Fitzgerald, said all bar Niamh, are back in training, but they are not sure at this stage if Maire or Orla will be available for Sunday.
“We will train tonight and if they can’t fully take part then they won’t be in contention to start on Sunday,” said Ephie, “you can’t take a chance at this stage on any player and it wouldn’t be right to do so.
But we have strength in depth in the squad and there are others to step in and take their places. This makes for great competition for places in the starting 15 or match-day squad and leads to great intensity in training.
“When you look at it there are only potentially three hours left in the season, that’s if you reach the final so that intensity is needed and the girls are really focused on the task ahead. Waterford are a good side and we know it won’t be easy.
“However if we play to our potential then I would be confident of winning and moving on.
“But we will need to cut out the sloppy mistakes we made in the final quarter of our last meeting with them. We conceded a few goals and we can’t afford to do that on Sunday."
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