CORK ladies’ football manager Ephie Fitzgerald insists his team won’t be underestimating the challenge of Tipperary as they begin their Munster SFC campaign on Saturday in Ardfinnan (2pm).
This year is the first since 2012 that Cork don’t go into the championship with the Division 1 league won, but Fitzgerald doesn’t necessarily think that is a bad thing as they clash with the Division 2 champions.
‘We know Tipp are a good team,’ he said, ‘and lots of people are telling me we’re not even favourites!
‘Last year, we won the league and I don’t think we were at it mentally in the first game against Waterford, we improved against Kerry and maybe we were unlucky to lose.
‘Tipp haven’t played a lot of Division 1 teams but Donegal won Division 2 two years ago and should probably have beaten us in the Division 1 final last years so it shows that the gap isn’t huge. ‘They played Donegal in a challenge ga me last week and ran them close, so we’re expecting a tough battle.’
Having had to negotiate the qualifiers from an earlier stage than usual last year,
‘We’re putting a big emphasis on Munster this year and the training has been going well,’ he says, ‘the girls are at a good pitch and in terms of strength and conditioning I don’t think I’ve ever seen them as fit as this.
‘We played Mayo in a challenge match last week and played quite well. We don’t do too many challenge games, a lot of internal stuff as you don’t want to be risking injuries when the panel is tight, but that was a good runout.’
Aisling Barrett, injured in the Mayo game, is Cork’s only injury worry, while the Leaving Certificate means the panel is lighter than it could be.
‘We have five doing the Leaving,’ Fitzgerald says, ‘so we won’t have them until mid-June, we deliberately kept the squad small rather than bringing in girls and leaving them off again.
‘Other than Aisling, it’s a clean bill of health, Eimear Scally is back and we have three big additions to the panel in Hannah Looney, Meabh Cahalane and Roisín Phelan.
‘Everything has gone very well and the girls are very focused. We know Tipp won’t be easy but we’re hopeful that we’ve the work done and we’ll get the result,’ the Cork boss added.