Wednesday 13 December 2017

Final is sure to rumble again

TG4 All-ireland ladies senior football final: Dublin v Cork, Croke Park, Tomorrow, 4.0, Live TG4

Dublin manager Gregory McGonigle knows his players won’t fear champions Cork
Dublin manager Gregory McGonigle knows his players won’t fear champions Cork
Mayo’s Grace Kelly can’t find a way past Dublin defender Deidre Murphy

Will the record be broken? There's every chance.

On the pitch, Cork just keep spinning the same disc. With all the charm of Larry Gogan.

There were 33,000 people in Croke Park for the 2001 final between Laois and Meath.

Now the fervent wish is to top that. Three matches on tomorrow's Croke Park TG4 All-Ireland final menu.

Antrim against Longford in the Junior final at 11.45, followed by Clare against Kildare in the Intermediate final at 1.45. And you could have no better pairing as the headline act.

Cork against the Dubs. It's what Sunday puddings are made of. The piano playing in the parlour. People dancing on the street.


Cork won by a point in 2014. They won by two points last September.

And, despite the legendary Eamonn Ryan heading upstream for the Cork's men's dressing-room, the river flows on. It took a while to adjust to the movement of the furniture.

There were some defeats in the League. But they were quickly overcome. So much so that Cork ended up winning the League.

And now here they are, back in another All-Ireland final, their 11th in 12 years. Extraordinary.

Ephie Fitzgerald is now the man driving the train. James Masters is a leading lieutenant. The boy could play.

Over 27,000 saw the 2014 duel. Last year, over 31,000 attended.

And that figure is likely to rise again.

Greg McGonigle, the Dublin manager, is urging all to book Afternoon Tea on the Jones's Road.

He has done a wonderful job. He managed Monaghan before. He also got them to walk on the red carpet. He's one of the finest managers the sport has seen. He believes in the value of the Forensics Department.

In Leinster once again, it was like the song, Dublin Saunter, sung by Noel Purcell.

Their fifth provincial title on the trot, a record for the county.

They beat Westmeath in the final at O'Moore Park.

All the Dublin forwards scored. And goalkeeper Ciara Trant did a Stephen Cluxton on it - she converted a free.

And even full-back Deirdre Murphy added a point in Dublin's handsome victory.

Donegal and Mayo proved taller fences. The semi-final against Mayo was a game for the ages.

The Jackies displayed resilience to come through. Sinéad Aherne's last kick of the game proved a golden shot that Bob Monkhouse would have been proud of.

It was a one-moment-in-time situation.

Dublin earned a free, wide on the left and from a tricky angle. The teams were level. The hooter had gone. It was the last kick of the game. It was looking like extra-time and a hard day's night in Cavan.

But Sinéad sent the O'Neills spinning over the bar, and the Dubs booking the bus for the Clonliffe Road.

Dublin's work-rate was commendable in that success. They are willing to put in the miles, and the tackles.

And they didn't wilt, despite coming under massive pressure in the second half.

And facing the great Cora Staunton, who was sparking the Mayo march.

Dublin captain Noelle Healy could run for Ireland. So too Sinéad Goldrick, Lauren Magee and Carla Rowe.

Lauren has been selected at midfield with her Kilmacud colleague Molly Lamb.

The Dublin defence is as solid as the Custom House.

"Deirdre Murphy started at number 3 all year," says Greg McGonigle.

"She has played against Cork teams so many times. She has won All-Irelands at U14, 16, Minor and U21.

"And those Dublin teams would have been meeting Cork at those levels, so she'd be used to be playing against Cork."

Dublin don't fear Cork. The Rebelettes don't fear the Jackies.

But there's a healthy respect there.

Both sides know that it will be all about hitting the ground sprinting, producing your best on the day, and sealing the envelope tight.

Cork are excellent at seeing out games. Protecting slender leads with sure hands and quick movement.

In the last two finals, Valerie Mulcahy was the top scorer. Cork are now without her and also the considerable presence of Geraldine O'Flynn.

In the 2014 final, O'Flynn was the inspirational figure that dragged Cork up by their boot-laces. It was an awesome display from the brilliant left half-back.

And without her magnificent contribution, Dublin could well have gone on to win their second All-Ireland. Geraldine was injured early on in last year's final and had to leave the field after 16 minutes.

Yet Cork still have formidable personnel, like Bríd Stack, Vera Foley, Deirdre O'Reilly and the exceptional duo of Rena Buckley and Briege Corkery, who will once again complete the Cork City Marathon.

Cork also possess tidy forwards in captain Ciara O'Sullivan, Orlagh Farmer and Orla Finn.

Dublin's attacking duo, Niamh McEvoy and Lyndsey Davey, bring such wisdom to the front of the house.

They excel at inviting team-mates into the picture. Getting hold of the ball and showing the patience to release it at just the right time.


The return of the artful Aherne is a major lift.

She had the match of her life when Dublin collected the Brendan Martin Cup the last time. And she is in terrific form this term. Her work off the ball is one of the most striking aspects of her play.

Dublin have electric pace throughout the team.

When they won their only All-Ireland in 2010, Denise Masterson was the skipper.

That was Cork's gap year. Apart from that, they have won every All-Ireland since 2005.

If they win tomorrow, they'll join Kerry at the top of the leaderboard. The Kerry side of the majestic Mary Jo Curran.

There's something magical down by the Lee. The O'Donovan brothers confirmed that.

But then there's the Liffey lass, Annalise Murphy.

The third successive meeting of the waters should be a bit special.

Dublin: Ciara Trant; Olwen Carey, Deirdre Murphy, Leah Caffrey; Sinéad Goldrick, Sinéad Finnegan, Niamh Collins; Lauren Magee, Molly Lamb; Noelle Healy (capt); Nicole Owens, Carla Rowe; Niamh McEvoy, Sinéad Aherne, Lyndsey Davey.

Cork: Martina O'Brien; Marie Ambrose, Bríd Stack, Róisín Phelan; Vera Foley, Deirdre O'Reilly, Shauna Kelly; Rena Buckley, Briege Corkery; Annie Walsh, Ciara O'Sullivan (capt), Orlagh Farmer; Áine O'Sullivan, Doireann O'Sullivan, Orla Finn.

Verdict: Dublin

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