Mayo ladies provide stiff test as Cork face first semi-final

AFTER steady progress at under-age level and in club competitions, Cork appear to be in a position to challenge for honours in the TG4 All-Ireland ladies senior football championship.

Tomorrow in Portlaoise (2.30pm) they take on former champions Mayo in the first of the semi-finals, with Dublin and Galway clashing in the other.

Cork’s advancement is reflected this year in first-ever successes in the National League and Munster and their debut appearance at this stage of the championship.

Team captain Juliette Murphy from Donoughmore agrees that success at under-age level has been ‘slowly building up’ in recent years, but there is no guarantee it will follow through into adult grades.

“That’s something which (team manager) Eamonn Ryan has pointed out. It does not necessarily mean that the talent is going to come through at senior level,’’ she said.

“We have reached this stage through a combination of the clubs doing well, our wins at under-age and the management structure we have in place for the last two years.’’

Ryan, who managed Cork’s senior footballers and distinguished himself as a player, is an experienced coach. According to the Cork captain, he has focused on perfecting the skills of the game, as well as working on tactics.

En-route to the semi-final, Cork met Waterford and Kerry in the round robin series in Munster, before beating Kerry in the provincial final. They met Meath in the All-Ireland quarter-final, where they were pushed to the limit before coming out on top.

“That was the first game in which we were really tested,’’ said Murphy.

“They got a penalty near the end which they scored, but we came back from that to beat them by six points.

“It was great to qualify for the semi-final for the first time. We have got further than we did last year, but having said that, we were very disappointed to lose to Mayo in the quarter-final last year. And, despite what people might say, they are still a huge force to be reckoned with.

“They had a very tough battle with Galway and they are a physical side.”

The other semi-final is a repeat of last year’s final, which was won by Galway. Dublin manager John O’Leary thinks it will be hard for his side to win an All-Ireland.

“Last year I said that Cork and Galway would be the teams to beat and I have not changed my mind. Cork are an up-and-coming side and they hammered Galway in the league final,” he said.

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