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Dublin: 13 °C Wednesday 14 November, 2018

Chance for Dublin on Sunday to reach their first Division 1 ladies football league final

Monaghan stand in Dublin’s way while Cork and Kerry meet in the other semi-final. In camogie it’s Cork against Clare at the semi-final stage.

Kingscourt Stars in Cavan is the venue for Sunday's clash between Dublin and Monaghan.
Kingscourt Stars in Cavan is the venue for Sunday's clash between Dublin and Monaghan.
Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

DUBLIN MANAGER GREGORY McGonigle is hoping to steer the Sky Blues into a very first Tesco Homegrown Ladies NFL Division 1 final on Sunday.

Dublin, who were crowned Division 2 champoins in 2011, have never contested a top flight decider but that could change if the Jackies defeat McGonigle’s former charges Monaghan in next Sunday’s semi-final at Kingscourt Stars in Cavan.

And McGonigle, who guided Monaghan to TG4 All-Ireland final appearances in 2011 and 2013, believes that Dublin have made progress this year.

“I think we are ahead of schedule – we have played seven games and haven’t lost. We’ve brought in U21 players to top up the seniors and we have 42 players available to train most weeks.

“There’s a good blend of youth and experience and I’m happy enough that it’s a positive camp. Monaghan weren’t too far away from being the finished article, losing by a point in last year’s All-Ireland final, whereas I would have viewed Dublin as having more team play to get sorted out.

“As much as they were very good in the first half of last year’s quarter-final against Cork, there were things that I would have tried to improve with defending.

Gregory McGonigle Dublin manager Gregory McGonigle was in charge of Monaghan last year. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

“But win or lose next Sunday, it doesn’t change our season that much. Ideally we would love to be in a final but getting to a semi-final gives us another game before the Kildare match in the Leinster championship on June 22.

“In the two years when Monaghan reached the All-Ireland final when I was there, they didn’t contest a League final so I’m not getting too hung up on do or die.

“The girls are still doing gym sessions, fitting in club football and training flat out with the county. Our fitness levels are good for this time of year and I hope that we can maintain that.”

McGonigle is rating Sorcha Furlong at 50/50 to feature against Monaghan while Siobhán Woods will miss out after undergoing keyhole surgery on a gall bladder complaint.

9743 WOW GIRO CYCLE Dublin players Noelle Healy and Rachel Ruddy were recently at the launch for the One4All Women on Wheels cycle for Oxfam.

Meanwhile, the second semi-final is a Munster derby between Cork and Kerry, with reigning League and All-Ireland champions Cork looking to avenge a one-point defeat against the Kingdom in the group stages.

The two sides are no strangers to each other and in last year’s Munster championship, Kerry won both meetings between the counties.

But Cork gained revenge with victory at Semple Stadium in the TG4 All-Ireland semi-final, before going on to collect the Brendan Martin Cup for the eighth time in nine seasons.

Kerry manager William O’Sullivan reflected: “It is what it is, a local derby and it could go either way.

“We’ve beaten Cork on a couple of occasions in the last year or so but we haven’t beaten them on the national stage. This is the national stage and if we beat them on Sunday, it will be a first for us in that regard.”

O’Sullivan is picking from a full deck for Sunday’s tie at Dromcollogher/Broadford in Limerick, with Caroline Kelly back from injury.

O’Sullivan’s squad, and his defence in particular, has also been strengthened by the return of Aisling Leonard and Aoife Lyons.

William O'Sullivan Kerry boss William O'Sullivan saw his side defeated by Cork in last year's All-Ireland semi-final. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

And O’Sullivan admits that Kerry would love to reach a first Division 1 final since 2008.

He explained: “We’re in three competitions and we’d like to win all three of them.

“We’re no different to any other team in that respect. To get to a semi-final is the first step and a final would be a great bonus. We’re certainly striving to get there but no more than Cork.”

O’Sullivan added: “The game in Dingle earlier this year was a typical local derby. Neither team played well and we were lucky enough to come out with a one-point win. We got the goal we didn’t get in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final but it could have gone either way.

“This is a different game, a different time of year with harder ground, not as sticky. And Cork are going to be a lot fitter than what they were. It’s anybody’s game.”

Anna Geary and Deirdre Murphy Anna Geary is a vital player for Cork on Sunday. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

Meanwhile Cork and Clare face off in the Division 1 camogie league semi-final tomorrow afternoon in Kilmallock at 1pm. The sides continue their long-standing rivalry with a place in the final against Kilkenny on offer for the winners.

Clare had to reach the semi-finals the hard way, going through the play-offs defeating Galway and Limerick en-route. The games may well stand to the Clare side, who welcome back All Star Chloe Morey after a cruciate knee ligament operation. Their half-back line of Roisin McMahon, Niamh O’Dea and Eimear Considine looks strong.

Cork will hope to prosper with Kaitriona Mackey in the full forward line along with Marie O’Neill and Orla Cotter who has been superb, in this position since switching from her midfield and half-forward line berth.

Much will depend on Rena Buckley at midfield as well to lead the way, as Cork start without the experienced trio of Anna Geary, Briege Corkery and Aoife Murray.

Cork will be intent on reaching back-to-back league finals but Clare’s hunger for a league final spot, may prevail.

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