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Dublin: 12 °C Sunday 5 April, 2020

Write Cork off at your peril, the lengthy lay-off and Mayo's deadly triple threat

Cork and Mayo booked their All-Ireland semi-final date following a double-header in Mullingar yesterday.

1. Write Cork off at your peril

CLICHÉ, BUT YESTERDAY was the prime example of how the six-in-a-row All-Ireland champions can never be written off.

Jessica O'Shea with Olivia Divilly

Their year to date had been very much up and down — a mixed bag in the league but they ran out Division 1 champions for the fifth year running by just a single point, a hugely disappointing provincial campaign in which they failed to reach the decider, and another nervy one-point win in the All-Ireland qualifier stages over Monaghan.

Without key leaders like Briege Corkery, Rena Buckley and Deirdre Reilly this year and more often than not hit hard by injury, there were doubts cast over this so-called team in transition — that they might not be true All-Ireland contenders for the first time in as long as many can remember. Younger players have been forced to mature however, and have truly broken the scene.

And they again led the way yesterday at Cusack Park. A 24-point demolition of Galway, six goals in total, an emphatic period of dominance either side of half-time in which an unanswered 3-11 was recorded and an exhibition of shooting with Orla Finn and Eimear Scally among those to hit new heights — indeed, write Cork off at your peril.

Ciara O'Sullivan with the trophy as the team celebrates Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

2. The lay-off between provincial finals and All-Ireland quarter-final stages

Going into yesterday’s quarter-final double-header, Ulster champions Donegal hadn’t played a competitive game since their provincial final win over Monaghan on 2 July. Likewise, Galway — victorious in Connacht — hadn’t lined out since their win over Mayo on the same date. One day short of seven weeks ago.

Meanwhile, Mayo — who were forced down the qualifier route — dispatched Kildare on 5 August, and Cork were pushed to their limits against Monaghan in their qualifier meeting on the Bank Holiday Monday. Two weeks versus seven weeks.

Cork manager Ephie Fitzgerald said it himself after the game, that the Farney clash benefitted his side a lot, and sharpened them up. Galway kept with the Rebels — and outplayed them at times — for the first twenty minutes, but as Cork ruthlessly attacked, they faded. Was it a lack of match fitness, that sharpness that should be there in a game situation maybe just wasn’t?

Donegal v Mayo -TG4 Ladies Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Quarter-Final Source: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE

On the other hand, Donegal were tipped for big things this year. They were cited as definite All-Ireland contenders by many, including themselves. Their narrow league final defeat to Cork and successful provincial campaign just spurred them on, but likewise they were outclassed yesterday. Mayo completely blew them away in the second half. Interesting that two provincial champions were knocked out, after lengthy lay-offs.

3. Mayo’s dangerous inside forward line

Sarah Rowe, Cora Staunton and Grace Kelly combined to fire home 2-13 of their side’s 3-14 tally. The Westerners looked a seriously strong outfit yesterday, with their three full-forwards running riot with the ball at their disposal.

Staunton may not have had her most glittering performance in the green and red jersey, hitting some uncharacteristic wides, but she still walked off the field with 1-6 to her name. Her experience and cleverness is invaluable to this Mayo side, as she calls the shots at the heart of their attack.

Mayo player's celebrate Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Feeding off her is the youth and pace of Sarah Rowe and Grace Kelly — who was named Player of the Match following her 1-4 haul — and they make for a deadly triple threat. Kelly’s sister Niamh is another who rattled the net, and is destined to cause serious problems for Cork when they meet in two weeks time.

4. A mouth-watering semi-final to look forward to

Before today, we knew that Dublin and Kerry were set to go head-to-head, but we now have our second All-Ireland semi-final pairing. 2 September is the date fixed, and Cork and Mayo will be vying for that coveted All-Ireland final spot.

It’s the first time the sides will meet in the championship since the Rebels claimed an All-Ireland quarter-final win in 2014. They’re no strangers to each other in the Division 1 Lidl Ladies National League however, producing titanic battles year after year. This one is destined to be no different.

Cork v Galway - TG4 Ladies Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Quarter-Final Source: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE

With the impression that Mayo stalwarts Cora Staunton, Martha Carter and Yvonne Brady won’t step away without ending their 14-year wait to lift the Brendan Martin Cup, paired with the fact that they came agonisingly close to sealing their Croke Park date last year, they’ll be gunning for a crack at the six-in-a-row champions.

And Cork, although they proved yet again that they can’t be written off, they still have a lot more to prove going forward this year.

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Relentless Cork fire six goals past Galway as they steamroll on for seven in-a-row

Unstoppable inside forwards and Kelly sisters combo seal Mayo’s semi-final date with Cork

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Emma Duffy

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