Cork now gear up for the All-Ireland series after delivering in Killarney

A Munster title was the ideal platform for the Rebels before the real championship begins next month
Cork now gear up for the All-Ireland series after delivering in Killarney

Ciara O'Sullivan of Cork in action against Anna Galvin of Kerry. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

CORK ladies football manager Shane Ronayne has expressed his pride at leading the Rebelettes out in this year’s All-Ireland senior championship.

Following a previous spell as selector under the late, great Eamon Ryan, the Mitchelstown native was ratified as Ephie Fitzgerald’s successor in the Cork hot seat last September. In addition to securing back-to-back All-Ireland club titles with Mourneabbey, Ronayne also guided Tipperary to national intermediate crowns in 2017 and 2019.

He has already steered them through Munster championship clashes against Waterford and Kerry, but Cork’s quest for All-Ireland glory will begin in earnest over the coming weeks.

“A very proud moment. It was a couple of weeks ago against Waterford. I’ve been there before. I did two years with Eamon [Ryan], God rest him, and I’m really looking forward to the big days. Hopefully we can be back here at the end of the summer to be competing for the big prize,” Ronayne acknowledged at last week’s championship launch in Croke Park.

From 2005 through to 2020, Cork and Dublin were the only sides to get their hands on the Brendan Martin Cup - the Leesiders winning it on an astonishing 11 occasions, while the Sky Blues claimed top honours no fewer than five times.

There seemed little prospect of anyone else ascending to the throne until Meath upset the apple cart in 2021. After recording a dramatic extra-time victory over Cork in last year’s semi-final, the Royals knocked the five-in-a-row chasing Dublin off their perch in the subsequent showpiece affair.

This has significantly increased interest in advance of this year’s championship and with Meath showing what is possible, Ronayne believes a number of counties are capable of scaling similar heights.

The big thing is that Meath have kicked on from last year. They’ve proved they are not a one-season wonder, which I think a lot of people probably thought they would be. 

"They’ve a very good team and I think the championship is fairly open as well. There’s other teams who obviously will take great belief out of what Meath did.

“The likes of Mayo, Galway, Donegal, Armagh will be really fighting for spots as well and I think it’s going to be very tight spots there for the quarter-finals. When it gets down to that business end, on any given day any team can win it. I think Meath proved that last year. It’s a very exciting championship to look forward to.”

Following in the footsteps of her club-mates - and cousins - Ciara and Doireann O’Sullivan, Mourneabbey’s Maire O’Callaghan was appointed as Cork captain for the 2022 season. Although this is a major responsibility for the reliable midfielder, the continued presence of her predecessors (including 2021 skipper Martina O’Brien) ensures it isn’t a major burden.

Maire O'Callaghan of Cork lifts the cup after the TG4 Munster final. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Maire O'Callaghan of Cork lifts the cup after the TG4 Munster final. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

“It has been a great experience. I wouldn’t say it has been a huge change to any of my day-to-day duties with the team, but it is an honour. There’s no shortage of people to look to, for any advice for anything to do with it,” O’Callaghan said.

As Cork look to bridge a six-year gap to their last All-Ireland success, they will have to make do without the services of some key players. The departure of 2021 All-Star Erika O’Shea to Women’s Australian Rules has been well-documented, but the Kiely sisters - Daire and Eimear - and Sadhbh O’Leary will also be marked absent for the championship.

Nonetheless, O’Callaghan insists that competition for places remains intense within the Cork set-up.

We have such a strong panel. It’s a cliche for a reason, but it really is true. 

"While it is a loss to lose those girls, they are brilliant players, we have a really strong group of who is there. People are dying for a chance to lay down a marker and get a chance to start or even come on,” O’Callaghan added.

“There are a lot of young girls who have learnt so much, even playing with their colleges as well. There are a lot of girls stepping up and they know that it takes a team of 30, 35 to really get us where we want to go.”

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