Cork can make history again

Cork can make History again


All-Ireland Senior Ladies Final Cork can make history again. By
Fr Liam Kelleher

In a few short years, Cork have gone from also rans to being kingpins
of ladies football in Ireland. I remember back less than 10 years
ago, when I got involved in the sport, that Cork were the perennial
losers. Rated no better than B standard underage and Intermediate
level at adult level. A mini breakthrough came when Cork defeated
Laois in the All-Intermediate final in 1998, Laois returned the
compliment a few years later and that Laois squad went on to win
the All-Ireland Senior final a few years after that. Cork still
languished in the doldrums being soundly beaten by the then kingpins
of Munster, Waterford. If Cork were to become a force something
radical had to be done and it started with the school of excellence
in 1998, I remember arriving at 10am in Sacred Heart College in
Carrignavar I still have the names of the 100 or so that arrived
and among those names was 9 year old from Beara Amanda Murphy.
We gave them the basics of the sport and then the School of excellence
the brainchild of Charlie McLaughlin, developed into the Ladies
football Summer camps. It was still a struggle even at underage,
I was manager of the under 14 team defeated by Waterford in the
first round of the Munster Championship, they went on to win the
All-Ireland. The next year we beat them in the first round then
were beaten by Kerry and they went on to win the All-Ireland.
We did have the dubious distinction of winning the Munster under
14B title defeating Tipperary. We persevered and in 2000 it all

Cork won the Co, Munster and All-Ireland titles racking up huge
scores on that panel were Briege Corkery, Brid Stack, Claire O’Donoghue,
Amanda Murphy, Catriona Foley, Norita Kelly, Laura McMahon of
the present panel and Elaine O’Rioran, Niamh Keohane and Laura
Power who were on the Senior panel for the past few years. Cork
completed the 4 in a row under 14 and remained unbeaten at Munster
level until this year. The success was emulated at under 16 and
minor level, a number of times and it continues, with the under
16 and Minors winning All-Ireland titles this year. While underage
success does not guarantee the same at Senior level, in the present
Cork set up it has played a huge part and has to be acknowledged

. The work of Charlie, McLauglin, Mike Murphy, Justin McCarthy
Eileen O’Brien, Mary Power, Sheila Quinlan Eileen O’Brien, Conor
0’Brien, Robbie Smyth, Con O’Sullivan, Christy O’Sullivan, Kathleen
Kearney, Nelius Carroll among others has been phenomenal. Apart
from that “Dream team of 2000” other current members to come through
the ranks are sisters Angela and Ciara Walsh, Rena Buckley, Geraldine
O’Flynn, Linda Barrett, Anita Thompson, Rhona Buckley. One look
at their profiles bears testimony to this.

One would be naïve to think that the present success is due totally
to the work done at underage, in came players like Juliet Murphy,
Valerie Mulcahy, Nollaig Cleary, Caoimhe Creedon, Sinead and Deirdre
O’Reilly, Elaine Harte and Mary O’Connor, who did not achieve
much underage success, Manager Mary Collins has balanced the combination
with the help of Coach Eamonn Ryan and their staff, to have the
most feared and respected combination in the field of Ladies football
in the country. That status will be put to the ultimate test at
Croke Park on Sunday when Cork will be hoping to make it 3 in
a row. There is little talk of 3 in a row, especially after the
camogie team agonisingly missed out on the honour.

The main focus on Sunday will be to win the game and that surely
will be the motivating force behind Cork’s bid for glory. As far
as Cork have been concerned Mayo, have been their nemesis for
the past 4 years, they lowered the Cork colours in the League
final of 2004 and they lowered their colours last May for the
first time since then in the League Semi-Final after a 31 game
unbeaten run, so we all know that Mayo have what it takes. They
know too how to win All-Irelands having won 4 out of 5 between
1999 and 2003. In Cora Staunton they have the most complete footballer
in Ladies footballer ever on the planet and one would not need
to be a rocket scientist to recognise, that the outcome will almost
certainly depend, on how Cork will shackle the enigmatic Mayo
girl, who has been in superb scoring form all through the year.
No doubt Cork will have a plan, what it is, I will not surmise
but it will unfold on Sunday. A lot too will depend on the referee,
who will have to have the ability, to distinguish between genuine
frees and “Manufactured” ones.

Cork have not really been tested in recent months, they have gradually
recovered from the league loss, the first after a 31 run of wins.
On that occasion most of the Cork panel were studying for vital
exams, a foreign training break in Spain, recharged the batteries
and it has been all systems go since. Cork have a very balanced
team from 1-15 and also have a very strong bench. The news that
dual star Mary O’Connor has picked up a knee injury is unwelcome,
but the value of that strong bench will compensate. Angela Walsh
is very strong at fullback, but must be careful not to wander
too far forward. Rena Buckley will more than likely be consigned
to marking Cora Staunton. Brid Stack will have to man the pivotal
defensive role with a commanding display and with Briege Corkery
outside her and Linda Barrett they could stifle the supply of
ball to Mayo’s inside forwards and if they do it will be crucial
for success.

Juliet Murphy capt and Norita Kelly have been the best midfield
pairing in the country for 3 years and all the forwards are capable
of taking scores. Deirdre O’Reilly has been in sensational form
in the corner and Valerie Mulcahy is playing her best football
since 2005 and the running game of Nollaig Cleary will play a
vital role, if she can deliver quick ball to the inside trio.
Amanda Murphy should be the likely replacement for Mary O’Connor
and on her day she is the supreme artist. All in all, it is going
to be a humdinger but with all their experience Cork should prevail.
Support too will be vital, Mayo are good travellers, hopefully
Cork supporters will travel in strength, to give the girls the
support they deserve.

Fr Liam Kelleher 087-8516984


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