Linda Collins shoots under pressure from Niamh Deely of Kilkenny during the semi-final. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Cork bid for number 29

The circumstances of Cork’s dramatic one point win over Kilkenny in the semi-final was somewhat overshadowed by the harsh dismissal of Orla Cronin in the 57th minute, and as of time of writing she is ruled out of Sunday’s final.

“Very harsh and to miss out on an All-Ireland Final, for a player who has never even been booked would be so tough, but look we are in the process of an appeal and hopefully we can get her cleared.” That was Cork manager Paudie Murray’s take on the possibility and at this stage probability that the Enniskeane player, Cork’s sole All-Star will miss out.

As for her absence, Paudie had this to say: “Orla is a key player for us, our free taker but her overall work rate, running off the ball and distribution are key components of our game.”

The manager is thrilled to be back in the final and says the team’s character surfaced in the semi-final win. “To be fair we have been building all year and the manner in which they dug out that win was testimony to that, they stuck to the game plan and never panicked.”

Paudie knows though that Sunday will represent another serious test against a very good Galway team. “They have quality all over the field and we will need another big performance, probably our best all year if we are to win.”

For Libby Coppinger Sunday can’t come soon enough for the dual star. “Can’t wait now really, it’s been a busy few months with both codes but to be looking forward to an All-Ireland Final is great.”

Libby is part of a defence that has excelled throughout the season. “It’s been good, the girls have worked very hard, we stick to our job, do what practise in training and trust ourselves at all times.”

Galway beat Cork in the league semi-final after extra-time - a match they could have won. “We could and probably should have won, but we just didn’t do enough, hopefully we will have learned for that game and put it to right on Sunday.”

Meabh Cahalane is from a family that been so busy of late with club and county, it’s hard to keep track of their activities, but the Meabh wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It’s been unreal of late but look that is what we play for and to be getting ready for the final is special especially after the year that everyone has had and hopefully we can end the season on a high.”

The drama of the semi-final win was not lost on a defender of her quality. It was “nervous near the end but delighted to get over the line, especially when we lost Orla and to get the win shows that the work we are putting is paying off.”

Like everyone in the squad, Meabh is aware of the talent that Galway have. “A very good team, they were champions two years ago, runners up last year and were in the league final a few months ago, so we know what to expect on Sunday and we will need to be at our best if we are to win.”

When Courcey Rovers were crowned county champions for the very first time last October, Linda Collins was appointed captain and it’s a role she has relished. “It’s a great honour to be captain and to do so in the All-Ireland will make it a very special day for my club, but the focus is all on the game and our desire to win.”

Linda was introduced in the semi-final and made an immediate impact and if it’s the same on Sunday, her approach will not change. “Our aim at the outset of the year was and always is to win the All-Ireland and now we are sixty minutes away from our goal. If I don’t start that will not change my approach, it’s a team game and like everyone else I am part of that team and will do whatever is required.”

That is the character that Paudie was talking about.

Cork had a relatively easy group and were always favourites to progress which they did and while at times they were unimpressive, there wa a good reason as Paudie explains: “We trained very hard during the group stages on the basis that when it came to preparing for the knockout phase, we could work on our skills and game plan, and that paid off.”

As for the return of Pamela Mackey to the panel: “A no brainer really. Once she indicated her availability, we were delighted to welcome back such a quality player, her experience alone is a huge addition as was shown in the semi-final.”

The semi-finals were of contrasting nature clearly the Cork v Kilkenny contest was of a much higher quality then Galway’s win over Tipperary, but then last four games are for winning - the quality is irrelevant, it’s a result business at that stage.

That said Galway always looked comfortable and while they also lost a player, Dervla Higgins looks set to be cleared to play, as she was put off in a case of mistaken identity.

Defensively they looked solid but at times vulnerable when Tipperary ran at them, but they have good players in Emma Helebert, Sarah Dervan and Siobhan Gardiner.

The midfield battle should be interesting. Ashling Thompson and Hannah Looney will look to get the better of Niamh Hanniffy and Niamh Kilkenny, but the Cork pair are Trojan workers and could edge this tussle.

The McGraths Siobhan and Orlaith along with Aoife Donohue will look to test the Cork defence but will have their work cut out against this unit who have been superb all year.

Apart from Cahalane and Coppinger, Laura Treacy has hardly put a foot wrong, Laura Hayes equally so, while as mentioned by Paudie the return of Pamela Mackey has strengthened the unit, in front of Amy Lee who has grown in confidence with every outing.

The Cork attack can be very dangerous but the possible absence of Orla Cronin reduces their options and with it scoring power.

Katriona Mackey, Chloe Sigerson and Fiona Keating are dangerous forwards as is Amy O’Connor who has yet to hit the heights she is capable of. The attention she gets from some opposing defenders largely goes unpunished, hopefully on Sunday she will get that and could revel in the space that Croke Park provides.

Cork play a very structured and measured game, it’s based on retaining possession, playing through the lines and running off the shoulder. It can be very good, but when it breaks down as it has and will, they can be punished, but they persist and it has paid dividends.

The availability of Orla Cronin would certainly make Cork the warmest of favourites, but on the basis that she will not play, it will alter the makeup of the attack, with Katriona Mackey likely to assume the free taking duties.

Cork will still be favoured and while Galway won the league semi-final, that’s a game Cork could and should have won, but they will have learned the lessons and look well equipped to bring the O’Duffy Cup back to Leeside for the first time since 2018, and a 29th in total.

It’s a 4.15pm throw-in on Sunday and it’s live on C103. Go for it girls!

Cork in search of new football manager

Like seven other counties, Cork are now searching for a new senior football manager following Ronan McCarthy’s departure from the position on Tuesday, or Monday night to be exact as it appears he was keen to stay on but according to reports, did not receive the support of the executive at its meeting on Monday.

The official statement said that Ronan had stepped down, this after the news was in the public domain a few hours earlier.

Who knew of Ronan’s departure? Only the manager himself and the executive who ultimately made the decision not to extend the Douglas clubman’s tenure for what would have been another year.

Focus now switches to the sub-committee of Marc Sheehan, Pat Horgan, Kevin O’Donovan, Conor Counihan and Noel O’Callaghan who will oversee the appointment.

Names been mentioned include Cian O’Neill, Ephie Fitzgerald, Keith Ricken, John Fintan Daly and John Cleary. There may well be others, but whoever gets the job will have a big task on his hands given the way the season ended with such a demoralising defeat to Kerry in Killarney.

Priority should be to attain Division 1 status, but looking at the quality of the teams in Division 2, among them Galway, Down, Derry and Offaly with Tomás O’Se on board that will not be easy, in fact it’s imperative that relegation be avoided.

Many thanks to Ronan McCarthy for his help and co-operation over the years, it was greatly appreciated.