Tuesday 25 September 2018

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Eyes on the prize for ladies footballers

Wednesday, 12th September, 2018 4:46pm

Cork will have a chance to regain the Brendan Martin Cup this weekend when they face Dublin in the All-Ireland Ladies Football Final.

Cork were on for seven in a row in 2017, only to be knocked out by Mayo at the semi-final stage. Dublin went on to win last year's final against Mayo, their first title since 2010 and their second overall.

This year both teams have enjoyed success. Dublin were crowned National League and Leinster champions while Cork cruised through Munster to be crowned provincial champions in June. The best two teams in the country, the winner will take it all on Sunday, both with different goals at stake.

For Cork, it's an opportunity to take their spot at the top once again. For Dublin, it's an opportunity of revenge against a team who've caused them much pain through the years – the three All-Ireland Final losses in a row from 2014-2016 cut a deep wound in this Dublin side.

Reflecting on 2018 at media event this week in Croke Park, Cork captain Ciara O'Sullivan said: “It’s been a good year for us. We developed some of the younger players in the Lidl League and while we were disappointed to lose the semi-final, we learned a lot from it. Winning the Munster championship was massive for us as a young team, and particularly having not even made the Munster final last year.”

Twelve months ago, Mick Bohan led Dublin to their second All-Ireland title, with victory over Mayo in the final. “The day of the game, you’re just wishing it to start. Even with family members, who understand to a degree, nobody fully gets the feeling compared to people in the group. It’s like that when you win and when you lose: that’s who you want to be with because they are the ones who’ve done the hard yards with you. Meeting up in DCU, getting to that stage is when it starts to kick in, that’s the great part.”

After watching Dublin men’s footballers win their fourth All-Ireland in a row recently, Bohan is focused on his own two-in-a-row quest but he’s loathe to look any further than Sunday with his side.

“I’d say the women’s game is way more even at the moment, I would certainly have picked out at the start of the year the four semi-finalists and you can throw Mayo into that as well. Those five teams I would have said to you at the start of the year, any one of those or any two of those could be competing for an All-Ireland this year.

“I’m not quite sure you could pick out five teams in the men’s at the moment that would be in the same boat so as regards looking beyond next Sunday is madness. To win any trophy nationally is a huge thing, to win two of them in the one year would be magnificent, it’s certainly something we haven’t done before.”

Marie Hickey, President of the Ladies Gaelic Football Association, was present at Croke Park to welcome the captains from the six participating counties.

She said: “The TG4 All-Ireland Finals at Croke Park are the pinnacle of our championship season – and these are three games to savour. Cork and Dublin is the renewal of an old rivalry in the Senior Final while Tyrone and Meath have provided some thrilling and entertaining football during their respective Intermediate campaigns. The Junior Final will bring back memories of 2010, when Limerick and Louth also competed for the West County Hotel Cup.

“The road to Croke Park has enthralled each and every one of us, with highs and lows along the way. We’ve had a great season of championship action to date and the three finals that lie in store will see our 2018 champions crowned.”

She is hopeful that this Sunday’s All-Ireland finals will represent as big an occasion as last year’s record-breaking deciders.

“It would be just wonderful if we can even get close to that (attendance) again this year,” she said.

“Certainly we are hoping. Ticket sales are good but it is very hard to pinpoint where you are with them, or where you are going to be for Sunday,” said Ms Hickey.

“Cork have been very busy with the camogie last weekend so I'm sure they will be all getting on the ticket sales this week and we will hopefully see a good response there as well.”

The All-Ireland Ladies Football Final between Cork and Dublin will take place on Sunday 16 September at Croke Park. Throw-in is at 4pm.

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