NIAMH Cotter has been ‘a revelation’ for Cork this season, says manager Ephie Fitzgerald.
The Glengarriff woman (22) missed last year’s league and championship after taking a year out to concentrate on her studies in Canada and then travel.
Back in the set-up this season, Cotter has been a key player in Cork’s recent Division 1 league success, highlighted by her inclusion in the Division 1 Team of the League.
With Cork’s defence of their TG4 Munster SFC crown starting against Waterford this Sunday, Cotter will have an important role to play.
‘When Niamh came in first she was tall and gangly and lacked that bit of strength but she has built that up over the last couple of years. She is a powerful athlete, one of the fittest girls we have on the team,’ Fitzgerald says.
‘Coupled with that she is a fantastic footballer and her attitude is brilliant so when you add all those things together she has been a revelation for us really, and such an assuming character too.’
Cotter’s return was one of the many bright spots in a successful league campaign. Not only did Cork unearth new talent and strengthen the panel – Fitzgerald namechecks Eimear and Daire Kiely, Clare O’Shea and Laura O’Mahony – but the Cork boss was delighted to see his young team stand up in the big matches, notably the league semi-final against Dublin and final against Galway.
‘The big thing is to see can they play in high-intensity games. At this level your temperament is every bit as important as your skills levels. They have shown they have that in abundance,’ Fitzgerald says.
‘Most of the teams have the skills but you need the nerve to perform when the need is there. We are all for the girls to play their football but we need to know too that they can perform when the stakes are high and they have done that, which is pleasing.’
Fitzgerald knows his side need to perform against Waterford on Sunday evening with a place in the Munster final on offer. The Déise are going well. They went goal mad against Kerry (5-13 to 1-17) in the Division 2 league final and beat the Kingdom again, 1-12 to 2-4, one week later in the opening round of the Munster series.
It was only two years ago that Waterford stunned Cork, 3-11 to 1-11, to advance to a Munster final that the Rebels missed out on. That’s a warning, and Waterford are better since then.
‘Waterford have been very impressive in their two games against Kerry. This is a challenge for us and we need to be switched on. There’s not much between the top teams in Division 2 and the teams in Division 1,’ Fitzgerald says.
‘We are lucky that we have had three weeks to prepare since the league final. We took the first week off and we were back at it fairly heavy last week.’
Cork have added an extra night’s training in the last six weeks and they hope that will benefit them later in the summer.
They have to plan for Sunday without captain Doireann O’Sullivan who has been hampered by a back injury.
‘Doireann won’t be available. She has an ongoing back problem and is seeing a specialist. It’s very frustrating for her because she had been going very well. I’d be hopeful that in a few weeks she’d be back,’ he said.