Advertisement
Friday 3 February 2023 Dublin: 10°C
# keep an eye
10 players to watch as Cork, Donegal, Cavan and Westmeath chase league honours
The Division 1 and 2 Lidl Ladies National league finals are down for decision today.

ALL THE FOCUS on ladies football today turns to Parnell Park, as both the Division 1 and Division 2 Lidl Ladies National league finals are down for decision.

Lidl Ladies Football National League Division 1 & 2 Finals Captains Day Sam Barnes / SPORTSFILE Cavan and Westmeath is at 2pm, while throw-in for Cork and Donegal is 4pm. Sam Barnes / SPORTSFILE / SPORTSFILE

Reigning champions Cork go in search of five-in-a-row in the top flight decider, and with many of their more experienced players away from the fold, they’re depending on their breakthrough stars to step up to the mark and produce on the big stage.

Standing in their way is a history-making Donegal side. In this, their first-ever Division 1 final, they’re hoping to put an end to the Rebels’ reign at the top and add to their own Division 2 title from last year.

Old foes Cavan and Westmeath go head-to-head in the Division 2 decider. The pair clashed twice in the 2011 All-Ireland championship final after it went to a replay, with the Midlanders edging to glory by just a single point.

The rivalry hasn’t left since, and it’s set to be present more than ever later today, with both a title and promotion on the line.

Here’s some of the players from each side you should keep an eye on.

Cork

Eimear Scally

In this, her first proper full year of training with the Cork seniors, Scally has really stepped up to the mark and lead from the front. She’s strengthened up, and her pace in front of the posts is a huge asset to the four-in-a-row league champions.

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

“A fabulous player with a great attitude,” as described by manager Ephie Fitzgerald, Scally has been scoring — both goals and points — for fun.

A league title on Sunday wouldn’t be her first piece of silverware of the year either. She was pivotal as UL claimed the O’Connor Cup back in March.

Niamh Cotter

All-rounder Cotter has been playing very well for Cork this year. The 20-year-old graduated through the successful Cork minor side, and is also a talented basketball player and runner.

She brings her athleticism to the field with her, pioneering in midfield and putting in monstrous runs up and down the pitch. The 2017 HEC All-Star also chips in with a point or two every so often.

The Beara clubwoman has been putting in serious shifts in the middle, and expertly filling the holes Briege Corkery and Rena Buckley have left as we await further news on their inter-county futures.

Doireann O’Sullivan

At the age of just 22, O’Sullivan is already a well-established name on the inter-county scene. She’s taken over the captaincy from her older sister, Ciara, for the day, but O’Sullivan won’t be changing her game plan too much.

Lidl Ladies Football National League Division 1 & 2 Finals Captains Day Sam Barnes / SPORTSFILE O'Sullivan at the media day on Tuesday. Sam Barnes / SPORTSFILE / SPORTSFILE

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.

The Mourneabbey star has been both her club and college’s leading scorer over the past few years, and is destined to make waves again this year on the inter-county scene.

Donegal

Geraldine McLaughlin

Geraldine McLaughlin’s scoring exploits, not just this campaign, but over the past few years have been phenomenal. Prolific is a word that goes hand-in-hand with her name.

Geraldine McLaughlin celebrates after the game Ryan Byrne / INPHO McLaughin captained Termon to All-Ireland club glory over Cork's Mourneabbey in 2014. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

The Termon star bagged an incredible 4-4 as Donegal saw of Galway to make history and reach their first-ever Division 1 final.

She missed some of last year due to a stint in New York, but McLaughlin is back and and better than ever. She’s sure to have a big say in Sunday’s decider and will undoubtedly cause problems for the Rebels’ defence throughout the 60 minutes.

Ciara Hegarty

Much of Donegal’s success in recent years has been built on a solid defence, which is lead by Ciara Hegarty at centre half back. She’s a top quality defender and a real leader for her side.

Named at number 6 in last year’s Division 2 Team of the League, she’s transferred her talent accordingly to the top flight and has been performing and marshalling the Donegal defence in typical fashion week in, week out.

Ciara Hegarty with Laura Walsh Donall Farmer / INPHO Hegarty was key to Donegal's Division 2 league final victory over Westmeath last year. Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

The Moville clubwoman will be hugely influential if Donegal are to stop Cork from winning their fifth league title on the bounce.

Yvonne McMonagle

Donegal’s other headline-hitting forward, and other half of the ‘Supermacs’, McMonagle has been unstoppable in the Donegal attack alongside McLaughlin.

She hit 1-4 from play in the semi-final, and the two combined for 3-10 as they dismissed fellow finalists Cork earlier in the league campaign. The Glenfin sharpshooter returned from Australia in February but found her feet in the team again fairly swift and has been rattling the net and splitting the posts since.

Sarah Marley and Yvonne McMonagle Ryan Byrne / INPHO McMonagle also lined out at full-forward in Donegal's 2010 intermediate All-Ireland winning side. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

The duo have the potential to cause havoc on Sunday, but with a star-studded Cork defence lead by veteran Brid Stack with the youth of Marie Ambrose and Roisin Phelan having taken over, it should be a tight battle.

Cavan

Sinead Greene

The Cavan captain has been rock-solid in defence ever since she linked up with the seniors back in 2011, fresh out of Cavan’s thriving underage set-up. Workhorse is the perfect word to describe the former DCU student.

She’s quite small in stature, but her engine is something else. She’s also a very physical player. Greene is sure to keep her defence on their toes, inspiring through her own hard work, impressive blocking and overall hounding of the ball.

Rena Buckley and Sinead Greene Lorraine O'Sullivan / INPHO Greene in action against Cork in last year's All-Ireland quarter-final. Lorraine O'Sullivan / INPHO / INPHO

Usually lining out at wing half-back, she’s an important attacking threat to the Breffni and her pace towards goal is a huge asset to her side.

Aisling Doonan

Cavan have some huge attacking threats — Aishling Sheridan, Claragh O’Reilly and Donna English incoming from midfield, to name a few.

But Aisling Doonan is the focal point of the attack, and a name everyone with an interest in Cavan football is well aware of. The Templeport ace was nominated for an All-Star award last year for her mammoth-scoring and breathtaking skill.

Aisling Doonan and Grace Kearney James Crombie / INPHO Doonan in the 2011 All-Ireland final. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

She’s the type of player that can score from nearly anywhere. Just give her the ball, and she’ll do the rest.

Back when the sides met in 2011, Doonan was the main target of the Breffni attack. She was a nightmare for the Westmeath defenders back then and is expected to threaten similarly today.

Westmeath

Lauralee Walsh

The Midlanders boast a hugely talented midfield and half forward line but with Lauralee Walsh operating at full-forward, they also have a real star as the focal point of their attack.

Lidl Ladies Football National League Division 1 & 2 Finals Captains Day Sam Barnes / SPORTSFILE Lauralee Walsh at the media day on Tuesday. Sam Barnes / SPORTSFILE / SPORTSFILE

The Division 2 decider is poised to be a tale of two forward lines and if Westmeath are to finally cross the line after two decider defeats in three years, Walsh will surely have a huge say. She plays her club football with Dublin side Na Fianna and has represented Ireland Sevens on some of the biggest stages in the world.

If given any space, the Glasson native is destined to do serious damage.

Leona Archibald 

Another huge threat is centre half forward Leona Archibald. Through the years, she’s lead the Lake County’s scoring, and earned numerous individual accolades as a result.

Leona Archibald Tom Beary / INPHO Leona Archibald is a solid free-taker. Tom Beary / INPHO / INPHO

In last year’s league final defeat she scored seven points, and posted six against Mayo and four against Dublin in their respective All-Ireland quarter-final and Leinster final losses.

She’s been on form again this year, and her free-taking is sublime. She links up nicely with Walsh, as well as with Fiona Claffey alongside her in the half forward line. In what should be a fiery game between two old foes, she should have plenty of chances to get her name on the score sheet through frees.

The Division 2 final between Cavan and Westmeath starts at 2pm, while throw-in for the Division 1 final between Cork and Donegal is 4pm. Both are live on TG4. 

The42 is on Instagram! Tap the button below on your phone to follow us!

Four-in-a-row champions Cork and history makers Donegal unveil strong league final sides

‘It turned my world upside down. Football gave me a focus and it’s nearly my therapy’