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'Very disrespectful' to focus on potential Cork-Dublin showdown before a ball is kicked, says Rebels boss

Ephie Fitzgerald feels his side are in good stead ahead of the TG4 All-Ireland championship though.

Cork manager Ephie Fitzgerald.
Cork manager Ephie Fitzgerald.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

CORK MANAGER EPHIE Fitzgerald says that pin-pointing a potential All-Ireland semi-final showdown against Dublin is “very disrespectful to everybody else”.

Another titanic collision between the old foes has been earmarked before a ball has been kicked in the All-Ireland championship round-robin series, and Fitzgerald feels that they hype around it is unfair on other sides. 

Should the Rebels and back-to-back champions Dublin both top their respective qualifier groups, and clear the quarter-final stages, they’d meet in the last four at Croke Park on 25 August.

11-time All-Ireland winner Bríd Stack acknowledged on Tuesday that there’s plenty of football to be played yet, but it would be a tie to savour.

“It’s just vital that they’re at their peak come that game – and it’s going to be a savage game if it does happen,” she said. “You would be lining up for a new pairing as well for the All-Ireland final, which would be great for the game.”

But later that day, Fitzgerald — whose side find themselves in a group with Ulster pair Cavan and Armagh — dismissed any talk of that potential showdown with the Sky Blues.

“That’s being very disrespectful to everybody else,” he told The42 at the LGFA’s championship launch.

There’s nothing to say that we’ll top the group or get out of the group. I don’t go by any of that rubbish.

“Mayo or Galway or any of those teams are quite capable of beating us on their day, as are Armagh. If you look at Armagh’s forward line, what team in the country wouldn’t want Aimee Mackin? And her sister. The Cavan forward line the same with Aishling Sheridan.

Ephie Fitzgerald talks to his team after the game Fitzgerald talking to his side last year. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“We’re not deluding ourselves into thinking anything other than we’ll have to work hard and be competitive. We are talented, there’s no denying that we are a good side. It’s just we have to go and prove it now.”

Most would regard Mick Bohan’s Dublin and Cork as the top two in ladies football.

They’ve met in four of the last five championship finals, and their most recent battle came in a dramatic Division 1 league semi-final in which the Leesiders dethroned the then holders.

Fitzgerald’s side went on to beat Galway in the final and impressed further en route to retaining their Munster crown, so understandably, their manager is pleased.

Well, there’s only two national titles. We have one so we’re happy enough with that. We’ve won the Munster championship, we’re still a few behind Kerry and that so we’re trying to catch up.

“I wouldn’t say it’s all about championship but that’s the focus now. We’ve worked hard so we’re looking forward to it. Barring any unforeseen injuries and that, we’re ready for action.”

There’s mixed news on that front with Niamh Cotter breaking a bone in her hand which will see her sidelined for now, but captain Doireann O’Sullivan is back fully fit ahead of their opening clash against the Breffni next weekend. 

The mood is good in the camp, with a nice balance being found between rest and intense training over the past few weeks. A training camp in Kerry saw them “work their socks off” last weekend, with all coming together nicely ahead of the business end of the year.

“We’ve trained harder this year than we’ve ever trained,” the Nemo Rangers club man claims. “We have a lot of nutritional work done, a lot of strength and conditioning obviously, we have some sport psychology done as well.

Shauna Kelly celebrates at the final whistle with Doireann O'Sullivan Doireann O'Sullivan celebrates reaching last year's All-Ireland final. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“We’re looking for inches, really. At this level, if we play Dublin in the morning, there’s not going to be very much between us. Galway have improved dramatically, Mayo have improved, Donegal.

There’s five our six teams there that are really in with a shout of winning the competition, we’re one of them.

“We probably have the toughest group as well with Cavan and Armagh. Our focus is fully on Cavan. If we can win that, it sets us up nicely for the next five or six weeks.”

It really is all about these big upcoming games.

“They’re televised as well which is a big boost,” he interjects, giving TG4 the nod. “It’s good for us too in terms of motivation and that having the girls on tely. They like showcasing their talents.

Hopefully we’ll give a good account of ourselves. If we play to the best of our ability, we’ll be difficult to beat. But we’ll take nothing for granted at the same time. 

He concludes: “We’re blessed with a very, very good side. As I said, we’ve worked harder this year than we’ve ever worked. Hopefully… you never know on any given day, refereeing decisions and things can go against you.

“But we couldn’t do any more than we’re doing and the girls couldn’t train any harder than they’ve done. They’re looking forward to it. If they play to the best of their ability, I think we’ll be there or thereabouts.”

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Emma Duffy

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