MELISSA Duggan expects Cork to raise their performance level for Saturday’s All-Ireland Senior Championship Group 1 clash with Armagh in O’Connor Park, Tullamore on Saturday at 3.15pm (match will be shown live on the Spórt TG4 YouTube page.
While the Rebels – second favourites for the All-Ireland title behind defending champions Dublin – were emphatic 6-19 to 3-8 winners against Cavan last weekend, they weren’t happy with certain aspects of their play, particularly the concession of 3-8.
Manager Ephie Fitzgerald described the Cork performance as ‘a bit sloppy’, and Dohenys defender Duggan agrees, pointing at the month-long break between the Munster final win and last weekend’s game as a contributing factor.
‘We had been off for the last month and we were eager to get back playing games. We were a bit rusty but you’d expect that after being off,’ Duggan said after she was presented with the Celtic Ross West Cork Sports Star Monthly Award for April on Monday night.
‘Training has been going well but it’s the games that bring you up to speed. Sometimes you can be rusty, make the wrong decision, not move the ball as well. Maybe that showed in the first five, ten minutes against Cavan, especially when they got their two goals, but I think we bounced back.
‘We were happy with the result but there are areas that we need to improve on and we’ll work on those. It’s about getting a win against Armagh now and topping the group, that’s where we want to be.’
Bar a huge shock Cork will beat Armagh this Saturday, top Group 1 and head into the quarter-finals of the championship. Duggan says it’s important now that Cork raise their levels as the games will get harder from here on in.
‘We want to up it a level or two now,’ she says.
‘Ephie is always talking about standards and keeping our standards high. Against Cavan we weren’t at the level we want to be at so we want to up that for the game against Armagh and then go up another level for the games after that, for as long as we keep going.’
This is Duggan’s third season as a Cork senior and already she looks a seasoned campaigner. She has nailed down her spot in the Cork defence but she points out the competition for places is so intense this season that no-one is taking anything for granted.
‘The bench this year is as strong as I have ever seen it. If you miss training or you don’t hit the levels you need to hit, you’ll find yourself under pressure very fast. You have to work hard on and off the pitch and you can never be too comfortable – but that’s a good thing for Cork football,’ Duggan explains.
The Dunmanway woman was honoured with a Celtic Ross West Cork Sports Star Monthly Award for her role in Cork’s Division 1 national football league success that included her crucial 1-1 haul in the epic semi-final win over reigning champions Dublin.
Cork got the better of the Dubs twice in the league en route to winning that title (beating Galway in the final) and the two counties are on a collision course in the All-Ireland championship too.
If both keep winning, as expected, they will collide in an All-Ireland semi-final in Croke Park in late August, but Duggan is paying no attention to that chat.
‘Already there are people talking about that possibility but the way the championship is set-up you have to focus on the next game and not look any further ahead. Armagh need to win this weekend so it’s a knock-out game and that’s all we are thinking about. You need to play each game as it comes and play to the highest standards,’ she says.
Cork ace Duggan now goes into the mix, along with the other 2019 West Cork Sports Star monthly award winners to date, for the overall award that will be announced at the annual gala awards in January 2020.