Lucky 13 for Cork – or a second title for Dublin? All will be revealed on Saturday evening at Croke Park when the big city rivals lock horns in the 2021 Lidl Ladies National Football League Division 1 Final. It’s a recent rivalry that has captured the imagination of Ladies Football fans – and another big-day meeting between two excellent sides is a mouth-watering prospect. Just over six months since they met here at Croke Park in the TG4 All-Ireland Senior decider, Cork and Dublin are back for another shot at silverware. Dublin ran out winners on that occasion but it was another intriguing battle that was in the balance for long spells, with a powerful second half performance from the Sky Blues proving good enough for a fourth successive All-Ireland title.
Where once it was Cork calling the shots when these counties met, now it’s Dublin with the upper hand. When they clashed in the group stages at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, it was a nip and tuck affair but Dublin prevailed by a point from a thrilling encounter, on a 3-15 to 4-11 scoreline. Dublin’s strength in depth proved crucial on that occasion, as former Ireland rugby international Hannah Tyrrell, back with the county team for the first time since 2014, landed 2-7. In the second half, the likes of Lauren Magee, captain Sinead Aherne and Niamh McEvoy came off the bench to aid the Dublin cause and bring know-how and experience to the table.
That’s not to say that Cork are lacking in the squad stakes. Looking back on that evening, they had Orlagh Farmer, Eimear Meaney, Emma Spillane and Brid O’Sullivan among the subs that came on.
These are two teams with so many options to call upon – and the respective managers, Dublin’s Mick Bohan and Cork’s Ephie Fitzgerald, know so much about their opponents.Cork and Dublin met in three successive All-Ireland Finals from 2014-2016 – and Cork won each of them, having also tasted victory in the 2009 decider. 2018 marked a shift in the rivalry – Dublin finally getting one over on Cork, and in an All-Ireland Final. That year, Dublin had also lifted the Lidl National League Division 1 title for the one and only time in the county’s history, when they defeated Mayo.
Fast forward to the 2019 All-Ireland semi-final – and victory for Dublin again. Last December, Sky Blue ribbons adorned the Brendan Martin Cup and where once Dublin were the hunters, they’re now very much the hunted. Cork did get the better of Dublin a classic Lidl National League semi-final in 2019 but they’ll want to scalp them on a bigger day – and Croke Park this evening provides the latest opportunity.
Cork (v Dublin): M O’Brien (capt.); S Kelly, R Phelan, E Meaney; E O’Shea, A Hutchings, M Duggan; M O’Callaghan, H Looney; E Spillane, B O’Sullivan, O Finn; S O’Leary, C O’Sullivan, L Coppinger.
Dublin (v Cork): A Sheils; M Byrne, N Collins, H Leahy; L Caffrey, O Carey, L Magee; S McGrath, J Dunne; H Tyrrell, L Davey, S Killeen; S Aherne (capt.), N Hetherton, C O’Connor.