Dublin remain the team to beat, warns Cork Ladies Football captain

Cork’s Division 1 league final victory has not changed the fact that Dublin remain the team to beat this summer, according to winning captain Martina O’Brien.

Ephie Fitzgerald’s charges ended Dublin’s reign as league champions in last month’s thrilling semi-final, a game which required extra-time, and followed that result with an impressive win over Galway in Sunday’s decider.

But O’Brien doesn’t see their successful league campaign as having shunted Dublin from the top of the ladies football pile.

Cork undoubtedly pose the strongest threat to Dublin’s three-in-a-row All-Ireland bid and goalkeeper O’Brien is certain her teammates will take confidence from their spring campaign.

“You always like to get a win on the big teams. Dublin like to beat us and we love to beat Dublin and it is the same with Galway. Beating them will give us confidence. Those teams, though, are going to reset ahead of championship and they are going to be bigger and better come the summer.

“Any team is going to use a league win as a launchpad [for the summer]. Going from a win into the championship, it gives you that extra impetus to win more. But on the flipside, for the teams we have beaten, it is going to make them hungrier to chase us. Dublin are still the team to chase, mind. They are the All-Ireland champions.”

The Clonakilty custodian won her sixth league medal over the weekend and refuted the suggestion the league holds less value for Cork than it did in recent years now that they are primarily concerned with recapturing the Brendan Martin Cup in mid-September.

“The league and the All-Ireland are the two main national competitions. You want to be winning everything, it doesn’t matter what it is. If it was a game of chess over the road, you’d want to win that too. We have that mentality. All the big teams have it. We put great stock in the league. It develops new players for the season. I think it was massive for us this year. We probably didn’t think we were going to be [in the final], never mind to win it. For us this year, the league was really good.”

O’Brien was central to the Rebels’ 1-12 to 2-7 victory at Parnell Park, making a vital interception in the opening half, one of three first-half Galway goal chances which Cork snuffed out. Even more important was her 35th-minute penalty save to prevent the Connacht side from leading.

“To be fair to Galway’s Róisín Leonard, she has probably hit better penalties. I won’t take credit for that. The main thing is it didn’t go in.

“Not conceding a goal in the first half was important. There were some very crucial interceptions, in particular, the one by Melissa Duggan. I don’t know how Melissa caught the ball in the square as she was between two Galway players and is probably the smallest player on the pitch. She is some player.

"It was good to see we didn’t concede a goal when we were outnumbered three to two. We said we’d give it hell for 10 minutes at the start of the second half and, in fairness, the girls worked so, so hard. We’re happy to get the win.”

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