THE TEAM GOING for a seventh All-Ireland title in the last eight years against a side who have not even been in a final since 1993?
It should be a no-brainer, and the odds-on status that Cork have indicate how strongly favoured they are to further cement their status as one of the best ladies football teams of all-time.
And yet, on a given day, anything can happen — as Cork discovered when losing to Tyrone in a 2010 quarter-final, the Ulster side winning by even points and then almost being tripped up by Kerry in the semi-final. Likewise Kilkenny losing by 10 points against Galway in the Leinster final only to triumph by 11 last Sunday after a draw in between.
For an upset to materialise, however, Cork must have an off-day while this Kerry side must find their best display of recent years. That Tyrone blip aside, Cork don’t do under-performing — they beat Donegal by 8-27 to 0-2 in the All-Ireland quarter-final and then, when that win saw them being classed as under-prepared against Monaghan, they had nine points to spare against the side who beat them in the league decider.
In Juliet Murphy, Valerie Mulcahy and Nollaig Cleary, Cork have three of the game’s best proponents while the return of Angela Walsh has provided further options in an already-strong defence where Bríd Stack, Deirdre O’Reilly and Briege Corkery, among others, are always reliable.
They will have their hands full in limiting Sarah Houlihan and Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh, who shone for Kerry in the semi-final win against Galway, and in midfield inspirational captain Bernie Breen and Lorraine Scanlon will need to stand toe-to-toe with Murphy and Norita Kelly.
In the counties’ last meeting in the Munster final, Cork’s good first-half showing, allied with Kerry starting slowly, meant that the game was over as a contest before the Kingdom got going in the second period. They cannot afford to give their rivals a headstart again.