MARTINA O’Brien and the Cork senior ladies’ football squad are primed for a TG4 All-Ireland LGFA semi-final clash with reigning champions Dublin in Croke Park next Sunday
Last September’s 3-11 to 1-12 All-Ireland final defeat at the hands of the Dubs in Croke Park was a sobering experience.Now, Martina O’Brien, the Cork LGFA management and squad have an opportunity to atone for that loss, having come through another testing campaign.
It may be a semi-final this time around, but the challenge of unseating the champions in their own backyard remains as daunting a challenge as ever.
‘Ourselves and Dublin know one another very well at this stage,’ the Clonakilty and Cork shot-stopper admitted.
‘Both management teams have been in place for a couple of years now and that has helped to create two settled squads. It will be a question of which side shows their hand first on the day, but I believe that this is going to be the toughest match of the year for both teams.
‘Whichever team prevails will have had to have worked the hardest that they’ve ever worked before; it is a simple as that.
‘Obviously, Dublin are All-Ireland champions, but we have worked extremely hard to get where we are and are ready to meet their challenge. If you’re going to beat Dublin then this is the stage on which you want to do it, playing in Croke Park and in front of a big crowd.’
A shock 4-9 to 3-11 defeat at the hands of Armagh during the group stages of the LGFA championship represented something of a jolt to a previously undefeated Cork. Yet, clocking up 7-18 in their next outing against Tyrone showed Cork were back to their attacking best and scoring goals will be crucial to seeing off Dublin.
‘Losing to Armagh was a big learning curve for us,’ Martina O’Brien noted.
‘We have just been focusing one at a time as we’ve gone through the year. We had a couple of losses during the league and we learned from those as well and pushed on.
‘There were plenty of challenges during the Munster Championship but we came through it. From there, we went into the Cavan game not really knowing too much about them as we hadn’t played them in years, so we had to be up for that match.
‘Looking back, we probably took our eye off Armagh a bit alright and were punished for it. Really, it just wasn’t a great performance from us. Since looking back at the video of it, we kind of took them for granted a bit at the start, but our heads just weren’t right. It was the best thing that could have happened to us though.
‘We came out against Tyrone all guns blazing and were fully focused. We knew the job had to be done and we did it, thank God.’
Competition for places has seen Cork approach this year’s championship with renewed hunger and determination. The Dubs will be one of Cork’s toughest examinations of the year, but the fact so many younger players are pushing the established order within the senior squad should help Cork’s chances of knocking out the champions.
‘I think it is a credit to both the management and the squad that everyone has worked so hard this year to get us into the shape we are in,’ Martina O’Brien concluded.
‘Hopefully, that competition for places and the fact everyone has had to work extra-hard this year will be enough to get us over the line in the end.’
* FIXTURE: Sunday, August 25th, TG4 All-Ireland Senior Championship semi-final: Dublin v Cork in Croke Park at 3.45pm.