MOURNEABBEY won’t meet a better team all season – and that includes in Munster and potentially the All-Ireland series – than West Cork, according to Shane Ronayne.
Last year West Cork came closer to beating Mourneabbey than any other team in the country when they drew the county final, 1-10 apiece, before Ronayne’s team won the replay. They went on to add Munster and All-Ireland titles to an impressive trophy collection.
Pointing out that West Cork are even better this season, Ronayne is wary of the challenge ahead.
‘We are already through to the Munster series but I can’t see us meeting a team like West Cork for the rest of the year. I don’t think we’ll meet a better team than them,’ Ronayne said.
‘Look at quality of players that they have, and ten Cork seniors. They had a lot of Cork seniors too last year but their younger girls weren’t getting as much game time with Cork whereas now a lot of them have progressed as players, like the two Kielys and Laura O’Mahony who have all played with Cork this year.
‘Niamh Cotter was only back from Canada last year for the final so she was a bit rusty but now she’s after an excellent year with Cork. Melissa Duggan is going from strength to strength and she’s one of the best players in the whole country.
‘Martina (O’Brien) in goal drives them on and she is a real leader. They have the Bantry players too this season and Emma Spillane is a double All-Star. There’s quality everywhere there.
‘West Cork are stronger now than they were last year. They are more experienced and they also have that hurt from losing last year’s county final. They are gunning for us. It’s going to be a titanic battle.’
Ronayne is happy with how Mourneabbey are ticking along. The defending champions are going for six-in-a-row. The hunger and motivation is still there, he says. They beat St Val’s 4-14 to 4-4 in the semi-final when Doireann O’Sullivan scoring 2-6 and Ciara O’Sullivan hitting 2-3, and Mourneabbey had the luxury of bringing All-Ireland winning Dublin forward Noelle Healy off the bench. This is her first season with the club after moving to Cork earlier this year.
‘If there was a transfer market then Noelle would be up the top of it. She has bought into the whole thing, is such a good player and it gives us something else up front,’ Ronayne said.
‘We lost only one player from last year, full back Kellie Ann Stack retired, so that required a bit of moving around. Bringing Noelle into the forwards allowed us move someone else further back the field. The squad is very strong.’
While Mourneabbey also have one eye on the Munster final on October 27th, they won’t lose focus ahead of Saturday’s county final. Maybe that’s what almost cost them in the drawn game against West Cork last season, he feels, but they’re tuned in for the battle ahead and the chance to rubberstamp their dominance of ladies’ club football in Cork.