THE Cork ladies club championships get underway this weekend with Mourneabbey the team to beat in the senior competition.
If you went on league form then they would be considered rank outsiders for the title, but they are far from that.
They didn’t win any of their league games and are in a relegation play-off with St Val’s, having won the league title last year.
But when you have at least eight of your starting side involved with Cork and not around for the league it’s easy to see why they are in that position.
With all now back for the championship, they will be determined to show that league form is far from a reflection of where they are at.
Whether you are a supporter or not, ladies football fans can only admire what Mourneabbey have done over the last seven or eight years and to bring that level of consistency — losing only one Cork senior championship final in that time — is a remarkable achievement.
They are still backboned by the players who have served them well for some time and it’s going to take a very good side to knock them off their perch.
From Meabh O’Sullivan in goal, to others like Maire O’Callaghan, Ellie Jack, Laura Fitzgerald, Brid, Ciara, and Doireann O’Sullivan, they have quality players everywhere. Add in Eimear Meaney who had a great season for Cork and they won’t fear any side they face in the coming weeks.
They start away to Fermoy who will be led by Ashling Hutchings, with recent All-Ireland winning minor keeper Dearbhla Creed likely to be their last line of defence.
This won’t be an easy game, but Mourneabbey will be expected to repeat their win over the same opposition in last season’s opening round.
One of the sides, if not the side, expected to run Mourneabbey close is Éire Óg. They lost in the final last year and will be determined to go one better this season.
The Ovens team can go into the championship in confident form having recently won the league title, defeating Glanmire in the final.
They will have learned a lot from last year’s campaign and with some of their younger players now a year more experienced, they are going to be an even bigger threat to Mourneabbey’s dominance.
From Lisa Crowley in goal to the likes of Eimear Scally up front, they are a serious outfit; one that is more than capable of winning the title. Add in others like Emma and Laura Cleary, Shauna Cronin, Meabh and Orlaith Cahalane, and Sadbh McGoldrick and they have the quality across all the lines and should prove too strong for Valley Rovers on Sunday.
The other team in this group is Kinsale and they won’t start their campaign until next weekend.
In group two, St Val’s are at home to Aghada and Bride Rovers are home in the battle of the Rovers as they take on Inch.
St Val’s had a poor league campaign but will be hoping that the return of players like Marie Ambrose and Aisling Kelleher will give them a boost in what will be a tough encounter with Aghada.
The East Cork side will be delighted to have Roisin Phelan back in their ranks after a year in Dublin and will also welcome back Hannah Looney, who returns from working in New York.
Add in the Leahy sisters, Sarah, and Rachel, who impressed for Cork this year and they should get off to a winning start.
The clash of Bride and Inch Rovers is another tough game to call, with the latter impressive in the league. They are never an easy side to beat and will be looking to get off to a good start. Bride will be disappointed with their exit from the championship last year, in a game that they never got going, and they will be looking to make up for that, starting on Sunday.
With Katie Quirke leading their attack they will be hoping that home advantage will tell, but Inch might just be that bit too strong overall for them.
Clonakilty are the fifth team in this group and, like Kinsale, they can watch the form of their opponents this weekend.
Division 1 SFC: Fermoy v Mourneabbey, 1pm; Éire Óg v Valley Rovers, 1pm; St Val’s v Aghada, 5pm; Bride Rovers v Inch Rovers, 6pm.