Cork play Monaghan in their Tesco Homegrown Ladies NFL opener on Saturday, but the following day sees arguably an even bigger assignment for the All-Ireland champions.
On Sunday, the squad and their mentors will be guests of President Michael D. Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin.
“The President is keen to start a new initiative where he meets a group of women to mark St Brigid’s Day,” said Sarah Martin, Communications Manager at the Áras.
“With Cork having won seven of the last eight All-Irelands, they are perfect candidates,” she said.
Cork captain Ann Marie Walsh said it would be a great honour. “We got a text last week saying that we’d go to meet the President the day after the Monaghan game. It’s a great honour, we’re looking forward to it. As far as I’m aware, Nollaig Cleary is related to his wife, which is nice as well."
Walsh was speaking at the launch of Tesco Homegrown’s sponsorship of the leagues, where LGFA President Pat Quill expressed the hope that negative tactics would not creep into the sport.
While the recent proposed changes to Gaelic football by the Football Development Committee do not affect the ladies version, Quill acknowledges that the sport must stay vigilant to ensure that the product remains strong.
“This is what we’ve often been commended for,” he said, “the free-flowing nature of our game, but that doesn’t mean that we can afford to take our eye off the ball, because we can’t.
“The physicality of our game at times can be a matter of concern, and the blanket defence, which we witnessed for the first time last year in ladies football, we’re keeping an eye on that.”
And, while debate currently rages over the decision to limit GAA teams to five personnel on the sideline, Quill is happy that existing regulations in the ladies equivalent are sufficient.
“We allow seven people on the sideline, we have had that rule for a long, long time.” he said.
“We’d have the manager and selectors, obviously, and somebody who’s doing physio or whatever the case may be and somebody on the medical side.
“Seven is the maximum, we feel that is adequate. If there is more than that on a management team then some would have to go in the stand.”
The standout Division 1 game is the Monaghan-Cork meeting, a repeat of last year’s final — and Monaghan manager Gregory McGonigle is relishing the challenge.
“You have to play them at some stage in the league, thankfully we don’t have a trip to Cork,” he said.
“You’d probably prefer to play them first and see how it goes, they are the barometer for everybody else.
“We’ve never really feared Cork, we’d have huge respect for them for all the success they’ve had, the worst thing is that they’re a nice set of girls as well so you can’t hate them! It should make for a great game on Saturday.”
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