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The key Cork, Dublin, Mayo, Galway and Clare players to watch in colleges action this weekend

It’s O’Connor Cup weekend out West.

ALL THE FOCUS on ladies football this weekend turns to the West, with some of the best players in the country in action at the O’Connor Cup weekend.

University of Limerick v University College Dublin - O'Connor Cup Final 2016 UCD won the O'Connor Cup last year. Source: SPORTSFILE

Hosted by Galway Mayo Institute of Technology, all six HEC competitions will be hosted together for the first time.

The highest grade is the O’Connor Cup, which sees the semi-finals played on Saturday afternoon followed by the final in Elvery’s MacHale Park on Sunday.

Reigning champions UCD will be hoping to make it two-in-a-row, but have a difficult opening match in the form of UCC — a side back-boned by several Cork stars. On the other side of the draw, DCU and UL go head to head in the hope of reaching the final.

Here’s two players from each side to keep an eye on.

UCC

Doireann O’Sullivan (Cork)

A well-established name on the inter-county scene, the 22-year-old Cork forward is sure to make waves this weekend. She stood up when her side needed her most in September’s All-Ireland final win over Dublin, scoring three vital points as the clock ran down.

Source: LadiesFootballTV/YouTube

The Mourneabbey star is a huge asset to her club, pointing the way to their third Munster title on the bounce in November.

She’s not long back from injury, but is well and truly finding her form again and set to be a huge threat for reigning champions UCD’s defence in the semi-final.

Marie Ambrose (Cork)

2016 All-Star corner back Ambrose has broken the inter-county ladies football scene over the past few years. Ever since her transition from minor to senior, she’s cemented her position in a hugely competitive Cork back line and impressed week in, week out.

Marie Ambrose Ambrose in action for Cork. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

And it’s no different when she’s lining out with her college.

Her experience on the big stage will stand to her and her UCC teammates, as she marshals the defence in typical fashion in the hope of leading the Cork university t0 O’Connor Cup glory for the first time since 2012.

DCU

Sarah Rowe (Mayo)

Having dominated the competition and won consecutive titles in 2009, 2010 and 2011, DCU have faced a drought of sorts since then. They’ve been there or thereabouts, but haven’t went the whole way since.

If they are to do so this year, Sarah Rowe will have a huge say in the matter.

Unversity of Limerick v Dublin City University - O'Connor Cup Semi-Final Sarah Rowe. Source: SPORTSFILE

The Mayo star is in the form of her life at the minute. When she gets the ball, she’s sure to score. As accurate on both feet, she undoubtedly causes trouble for every team she encounters and is sure to be a name mentioned again and again throughout the weekend.

Leah Caffrey (Dublin)

The other corner back on the 2016 LGFA/TG4 All-Star team, Caffery has been a mainstay of the Dublin starting 15 since her introduction to the panel.

She’s a classy defender, and an absolute joy to watch. Rock solid, she uses her speed to her advantage, racing out of defence after winning balls, and then initiating attacks.

The Na Fianna club woman is sure to keep her defence on their toes, inspiring through her own hard work, impressive blocking and overall hounding of the ball.

UCD

Nicola Ward (Galway)

The talk of last year’s final, Ward won the battle of the twins and helped her side to O’Connor Cup glory for the first time since 2006. She scored the only goal of the game as UCD held out for a narrow victory over UL, whom Ward’s twin Louise lines out with.

UCD boast numerous well-regarded names from around the country, and if they are to retain their title, it’s up these players to stand up.

Leading the half-back line, she’s as impressive in attack as she is in defence. Ward is a huge threat when she attacks at speed and heads straight for goal. Often featuring on the scoresheet, last year’s player of the final is surely one to watch this time around.

Megan Glynn (Galway)

Another Galway star, Glynn progressed straight from midfield for the Galway minors to the same position for the senior side.

Megan Glynn with Kathy Herron Glynn in action for Galway. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

She’s a real driving force around the middle of the field and can be a difference maker if this young UCD side are to make it two-in-a-row. This year howver, she’s been lining out in the centre-half forward position for the South Dublin college.

Glynn is a notable play maker, as well as one to take her own scores — both from distance and close range.

UL

Eimear Scally (Cork)

UL will hit the West seeking revenge. Having won back-to-back titles, UCD upset proceedings last year as they denied them their third in a row.

With the Division 1 league title under their belt, their first assignment comes in the form of old foes DCU, and if the Limerick university are to book their final date, there are several players who will have a huge influence — Anna Galvin, Louise Ward and Laura Rogers to name but a few.

Eimear Scally Scally came off the bench in last year's All-Ireland final. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

But Cork sharpshooter Eimear Scally is one to surely stand out. Having featured for UCC previous to now, her eye for goal will come as a huge advantage to the Shannonsiders. Although small in stature, her ability to win all kinds of ball and her unerring accuracy will cause trouble for opposition this weekend.

Laurie Ryan (Clare)

Laurie Ryan with Noelle Early Ryan captained Clare last year. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Ryan captained Clare to the All-Ireland intermediate semi-final last September, but they fell just short to Kildare in Croke Park.

She’s been a star player for UL over their past few campaigns, and this year is shaping up to be no different for The Banner defender. She’s one of the foundation stones of the team, leading from the back. Her tackling, support play coming out of defence and pure work ethic will be of huge importance to the 2015 champions if they are to do the women’s double, having won the camogie equivalent — the Ashbourne Cup — last month.

The semi-finals of the Lagan, Donaghy and Moynihan Cups all take place on Friday with the finals on Saturday. The semi-finals of the top three tiers — Lynch, Giles and O’Connor Cups — kick off on Saturday, with their respective finals on Sunday.

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Emma Duffy

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