Cork’s Orla Finn is relishing the start of the knockout section of the TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Championship as the Rebels face Westmeath in Limerick’s Gaelic Grounds at 4.45pm on Monday.
This year, for the first time, the final 12 teams were split into four groups of three, with two advancing to the quarter-finals.
Cork beat Monaghan and Armagh by 16 and 12 points respectively — the two Ulster sides had drawn, meaning Armagh progressed on scoring difference — and Finn believes that the new format has stood to Ephie Fitzgerald’s side.
“When we were coming in at the start, you’d actually be wondering if it was a good or a bad thing, but it has been very enjoyable,” she says of the new system.
“Last year, we had nine weeks of a break, which was way too much but this time we’ve had two games on consecutive weekends and now another one again on Monday, so it has been great.”
Finn scored five points in each of Cork’s wins as they showcased their dominance, but they never took victory for granted.
“We know from experience, you can never allow yourself to become complacent,” she says.
“A big help is that we have such strong competition for places, everyone has to perform well in training and nobody is a guaranteed starter.
Any team that does well has that — players pushing each other on and it’s a great way to ensure that people perform to the best of their abilities.
Westmeath were in a group with Galway and Waterford, beating the Déise by a point in their first outing but losing by 6-17 to 1-6 against the Tribeswomen last weekend.
Cork will be favourites as a result but, like the previous two outings, Finn and Cork are not complacent.
“We played them in the league this year [Cork won by 2-13 to 1-6], I don’t recall playing them in the championship.
“It’s an All-Ireland quarter-final, we’re just going out and focusing on ourselves and making sure we give the best performance we can.
"We’re confident going into the quarter-final. Preparations have gone really well and everyone is just ready now to learn from previous games and trying to make sure we make it back to a semi-final.”
M O’Brien (Clonakilty); C Collins (Dromtarriffe), R Phelane (Aghada), M Duggan (Dohenys); M O’Callaghan (Mourneabbey), S Kelly (Araglen Desmonds Buí), E Spillane (Bantry Blues); A Hutchings (Fermoy), H Looney (Aghada); C O’Sullivan (Mourneabbey), L Coppinger (St Colum’s), O Farmer (Midleton); Á O’Sullivan (Beara), D O’Sullivan (M’abbey), O Finn (Kinsale).
K Walsh (Milltown); L Power (The Downs), J Rogers (Milltown), R Dillon (Milltown); F Coyle (St Mary’s, Rochfortbridge), L Brennan (Garrycastle), N Feery (Tyrrellspass); MA Foley (Coralstown/Kinnegad), K McDermott (St Mary’s, Rochfortbridge); F Claffey (Foxrock-Cabinteely, Dublin), L Slevin (Milltown), J Maher (Tyrrellspass); L McCartan (St Loman’s), LL Walsh (Na Fianna, Dublin), A Dolan (Clan Gaels).