Ciara O’Sullivan taking on Meath’s Emma Troy in their Group 2 Round 1 match last month which Cork won. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Cork sides in the hunt for more success

It certainly has been a roller coaster of a few weeks, with win after win recorded by Cork teams in various codes and grades both male and female.

In fact my C103 colleague Paudie Palmer, who made a welcome return to the airwaves on commentary duty last weekend, and was his usual self, has been keeping tabs and the current tally is 36 wins from 39 outings in 31 days. That’s some going and hopefully that win tally will increase in the coming weeks.

This week could very well be described as the calm before the storm with only two Cork teams in action, but as it is the business end of the season and they are huge games.

Ladies Football semi-final

“A big loss as she has been a key player for this team over a long period of time, and she is also our free taker, but that is sport, and it gives an opportunity for another player to step up, but yes she is a huge loss.”

Cork manager Ephie FitzGerald confirmed that ace forward Orla Finn will miss the Croke Park semi-final on Sunday.

Ephie is “thrilled” that it’s been played in HQ: “It is only right that it be played there, especially with the Dublin v Mayo game going ahead there on Saturday.”

Ephie accepts that the Intermediate Champions of last year will be a tough nut to crack. “Having played them earlier in the championship, we know what they will bring; a structured defensive set up, with 12 and 13 behind the ball, and try and counterattack with pace and they are effective at that, so we will have to be ready for them, and hopefully we will.”

Momentum can be a huge thing, as we have seen with Cork teams lately and Meath will have that following their surprise but deserved win over Armagh in the quarter-final.

“No doubt about it, but we are building nicely ourselves and apart from Orla, we are ready and looking forward to the game,” Ephie concluded.

For Aine Terry O’Sullivan it’s been a good few weeks as she recovers from an injury that hampered her early in the season and she’s looking forward to the game.

“Absolutely it was frustrating at the start but it’s all behind me now and delighted to be back in the All-Ireland semi-final, but as with all games it will be tough.”

Aine remembers their meeting earlier in the campaign: “It was a very tight contest, we won by just a goal and it was a real battle and I expect the same on Sunday.”

Like her manager, Aine is thrilled that the game is in Croke Park. “It’s fantastic, every player wants to play there and while we have been there a good few times, you never get tired of playing there.”

The fact that there will be supporters in attendance will also bring a nice atmosphere to the game. “That is a huge help and great that supporters will be present, you could see at games in the last few weeks how it helps players and make it feel more like an All-Ireland semi-final.”

The sides met in the group stages of the championship in Birr and it was a crucial goal by Brid O’Sullivan just before half-time that earned Cork a 1-9 to 0-10 win.

Cork’s experience that afternoon was vital, and with Doirean O’Sullivan slowly working her way back to fitness, the Mourneabbey player adds another dimension to the attack.

Sabdh O’Leary, Ciara O’Sullivan and Emer Scally should feature in that unit, Hannah Looney is a hard working midfielder and could be joined by Maire O’Callaghan, while in defence Ashling Hutchins, Erika O’Shea and Mellissa Duggan front the experienced and excellent goalkeeper team captain Martina O’Brien.

It is a fair achievement by Meath to reach the semi-final in their first year at this level and the manner in which they defeated Armagh will ensure Cork will give them the respect they deserve and any team that can score 3-15 deserves that respect.

Emma Duggan got 1-5 that day and with Niamh O’Sullivan, Orlagh Lally, Vikki Wall, Emma Troy, Mary Kate Lynch and Maire O’Shaughnessy will be key players for Meath who are also the Division 2 league champions. With Cork as favourites, they are in the ideal position to cause an upset.

Cork may not have been at their best in the quarter-final win over Waterford, but with a good two weeks’ preparation behind them and even allowing for the enforced absence of Orla Finn, there is enough experience and quality for them to win and advance to yet another final, where the odds are that it will be Dublin waiting for them to set up another meeting between the two best teams on 5 September.

Under 20 All-Ireland Final

When news broke that Cork would not be in a position to fulfil this hurling final on the original date owing to a Covid case within the panel, it certainly caused a shock, but thankfully all are now clear and rather unusually the match will now be played on Tuesday in Thurles at 7.30pm.

It will be strange playing an All-Ireland Final on a Tuesday, but then these are strange times, but at least it will be played and for both sides, that is to be welcomed especially those in their last year at this grade.

Of course the big question is how will this impact on Cork as their preparations have been severely curtailed. In fact the panel only returned to training last night (Wednesday), which means at the most they will get in two or possibly three sessions before the game.

I am sure though that the management team will ignore that and focus on the task in hand and that is retain a title won just a short few weeks ago. It is also the first of three All-Ireland Finals in six days and they will want to start the week on a winning note.

Two lads that could actually benefit will be the dual players Brian Hayes and Jack Cahalane and with a lot played recently, they will be refreshed and ready for action.

Galway too will have been impacted in that they too will have to refocus having been geared for a final over two weeks ago, but their preparation will have been better than Cork’s.

Cork won a cracking Munster Final showing their resolve with late points to get them over them over the line when the momentum had swung Limerick’s way.

There is a nice balance in the team, but the absence of the injured Daire O’Leary will upset the defence.

Ciaran Joyce, Eoin Downey, and Ethan Twomey anchor the defence, Sam Quirke and Brian O’Sullivan are a solid midfield pairing, while the attack on its day can be lethal - Padraig Power, Darragh Flynn, Robbie Cotter along with Hayes and Cahalane have the capacity to unhinge any defence.

Options off the bench are also vital especially Ben Cunningham who knocked over vital points when introduced in the semi-final and final.

Galway will have the backbone of four All-Ireland minor winning teams in their squad and with the help of a truly brilliant goal from John Cooney got the better of a dogged Dublin side in the Leinster Final 2-15 to 0-15.

In the 2020 campaign, Dublin beat Galway and the Connacht side have seven survivors from that loss, and they will look to Oisin Flannery, Sean McDonagh, Donal O’Shea and Christy Brennan to try and end Cork’s reign as champions.

Had the game been played on its original date Cork would be firmly fancied to win, subsequent events may have titled the balance in Galway’s direction, but champions die hard and do not rule out a Cork win.