My top six teams in the Senior Ladies Football Championship

Picture credit: Sportsfile

Picture credit: Sportsfile

1. CORK

The reigning champions go in search of the 10th senior All-Ireland title in 11 years, just one shy of record holders Kerry. The manner in which they claimed their ninth title against Dublin last year – coming back from being 10 points down with 16 minutes remaining – will have further galvanised their resolve.
Despite a number of high-profile retirements since, Eamonn Ryan’s side still managed to reclaim the Division 1 National League title for the third year in a row, even when put to the sword by an impressive Galway side.
In the past number of weeks they have worked hard on increasing their fitness levels, and should they beat Kerry in today’s Munster SFC final (Mallow, 6pm), they’ll have won the Dairygold Cup 11 times since 2004 under Ryan’s reign.
  • Positive: New blood with the likes of Marie Ambrose and former Irish rugby sevens player Aisling Hutchings added to the starting line-up.
  • Negative: Having three dual players – Rena Buckley, Briege Corkery and Maebh Cahalane – makes life difficult for coach Eamonn Ryan as seen by today’s doubling up of camogie and ladies football intercounty fixtures.

2. GALWAY

Kevin Reidy’s side are the closest team to catching Cork. Having lost the 2014 All-Ireland semi-final to Dublin, Galway worked incredibly hard over the winter to reach this year’s league final against the Rebels, and in Emer Flaherty, Barbara Hannon, Tracey Leonard and captain Ger Conneally, they’re extremely solid up the middle.

Cork's Geraldine O'Flynn defends Galway's Tracey Leonard in the Division 1 National League final. Picture: AnoisPhotography.com

Cork’s Geraldine O’Flynn defends Galway’s Tracey Leonard in the Division 1 National League final. Picture: AnoisPhotography.com

Leonard was the star of the show in the first game of the league final scoring eight points, and if she can manage to continue that form now that team’s are wary of her scoring ability, she’ll be a huge asset to Galway.
It wouldn’t come as a surprise if the Brendan Martin Cup is to head back west this September for the first time since 2004.
  • Positive: Their fitness and fearless nature.
  • Negative: If full-forward Tracey Leonard is taken out of the equation, Galway’s scoring opportunities could be limited.

3. KERRY

Kerry just about shade 2014 All-Ireland finalists Dublin in reaching the top three spot.
They finished second in the round robin series of the Division 1 league behind Galway, and in doing so conceded less scores than the Dubs thanks to some solid defending by captain Cáit Lynch, full-back Aislinn Desmond and wing-back Caroline Kelly.
They only lost to Cork in the league semi-final by three points and stayed with the nine-time champions until the last 10 minutes, and should Alan O’Neill’s side have improved on their fitness since then, they could very well be on track in returning to Croke Park for the first time since 2012.
  • Positive: Kerry’s strong following will be their 16th man.
  • Negative: The absence, for now, of centre-forward Louise Galvin who’s lining out with the Irish women’s rugby 7s team.

4. DUBLIN

Having scored the second highest tally in the league this season, Dublin will be look to redeem themselves after relinquishing a 10-point lead against Cork in the 2014 All-Ireland final.

sinead-goldrick-gaa

Dublin’s Sinéad Goldrick.

The recent success of their U21 intercounty side in the Aisling McGing Championship will have buoyed the Jackies, and having beaten Laois last weekend in the Leinster semi-final (1-17 to 1-7), Dublin will look forward to facing Westmeath in the final on July 19 (Cullen Park, 4pm). However, they’ll have to wait and see if Sinéad Goldrick makes a full recovery from a hamstring injury.
  • Positive: The addition of a number of Dublin’s All-Ireland-winning U21 panel.
  • Negative: The absence of serious attackers in Lindsay Peat and Sinéad Aherne due to retirement and travelling.

5. MONAGHAN

Under the guidance of former Mayo manager Peter Clarke and Dublin legend Angie McNally, Monaghan are the only side to have beaten Cork so far this year, in the third round of the league (2-11 to 2-10). They could very well be the team to float in under the radar, and being the underdogs will suit them down to the ground.
  • Positive: The serious quality of players they have in Sharon Courtney, Caoimhe Mohan and Ellen McCarron.
  • Negative: Having lost the 2011 and 2013 All-Ireland finals, the question is do they have it in the tank to make it third time lucky?

6. MAYO

Mayo's Fiona McHale.

Mayo’s Fiona McHale.

The former four-time champions haven’t been in an All-Ireland final since 2007, but they have serious talent in nine-time All-Star forward Cora Staunton, Fiona McHale and Yvonne Byrne, but a lot will tell in  how they perform in tomorrow’s Connacht final against Galway (Castlebar, 4pm).
  • Positive: There’s no expectations on Mayo and that’ll sit nicely with them.
  • Negative: Not having played a competitive game since the end of the league in April.
Irish Examiner,
July 11, 2015
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