Saturday 28 January 2023 Dublin: 6°C
# Stars Align
8 players who could light up tomorrow's All-Ireland semi-finals in Croke Park
Fierce rivalries will be renewed as Dublin face Cork and Mayo meet Galway.


players (1) Inpho. Grace Kelly, Sinead Aherne, Niamh Cotter and Louise Ward could have a big say. Inpho.

Two fierce rivalries will be renewed tomorrow at Croke Park with Mayo and Galway [throw-in 2pm], and Dublin and Cork [throw-in 3.45pm, both live on TG4] battling it out for two coveted All-Ireland final spots.

HQ plays host to the historic double-header, with Mick Bohan’s Sky Blues eyeing three in-a-row. Who else, other than their arch-rivals Cork stand in their way, with Connacht neighbours Mayo and Galway battling it out in the earlier throw-in.

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


Grace Kelly 

In a deadly inside forward line alongside Sarah Rowe and Rachel Kearns, Kelly has been in the form of her life this year. The Moy Davitts sharpshooter epitomises the Mayo fight, and the rollercoaster ride of redemption they’ve been on.

Grace Kelly Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Kelly on the ball in the 2018 Division 1 league final. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

Undoubtedly full of confidence after being named LGFA Player of the Month for July, Kelly will be hoping to step up and deliver once again on the big day. Still just 24, she’s one of the leaders on this young and possibly less experienced Mayo side.

One half of the impressive Sister Act, Grace and Niamh (23) are heading to the West Coast Eagles to ply their trade in the AFLW in the coming weeks, so they will be aiming to sign off on a high.

Aileen Gilroy

2017 All-Star midfielder Gilroy’s return to the field of play last time out against Armagh was an extremely welcome sight. The St Brigid’s star is back fully-fit from a cruciate injury and whether she starts or not tomorrow, she could be a game-changer. 

Aileen Gilroy Ryan Byrne / INPHO Whether she starts or comes on, Gilroy could have a huge say. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

She’s not in Mayo manager Peter Leahy’s named starting 15 as of now, so he could opt to spring Gilroy from the bench instead, and her sheer presence around the middle will lift the side. An inspirational character whose game is built on pure hard work, it’d be a huge boost to have her from the get-go.

The former Ireland underage international is the type to give as much as attack as in defence, and her addition would be a massive support to the Mayo backline.


Louise Ward

One of the engines in this ever-rising Tribe side, Ward has the ability to open up defences with her darting runs and create opportunities for their threatening forwards. 

Louise Ward Bryan Keane / INPHO Louise Ward is a key cog in the Galway set-up. Bryan Keane / INPHO / INPHO

The Kilkerrin-Clonberne star and her partner in crime, Aine McDonagh, always put in a massive shift around the middle, Ward’s hassling and harrying inspiring those around her to lift their game. And with the likes of the Leonard cousins, Tracey and Roisin, ready and waiting to do damage inside, her initiation of team moves is crucial.

A strong runner with the ball, Ward also enjoys popping up with a score or two herself, and most definitely knows where the back of the net is. 

Tracey Leonard 

A true captain and leader, Leonard is guaranteed to step up and pave the way when Galway need her most. She’s a stylish forward, and causes problems for defences week in, week out with her pin-point accuracy and impeccable free-taking. 

At 27, she knows all about the fierce rivalry with Mayo, and will be determined to steer her side across the line once again; this time into an All-Ireland final for the first time since 2005 after falling at the last-four hurdle far too many times.

Tracey Leonard Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Leonard's scoring tallies have been pivotal for the Tribe. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

And Leonard is no stranger to battling back from past hurt on an individual level, having overcome a heartbreaking cruciate injury in 2016 to find herself at the top of her game now. 


Sinéad Aherne

On the topic of true captains and leaders, Sinéad Aherne is another of such. After her Leinster final showing was cut short through injury, the St Sylvester’s woman battled back to the starting 15 less than a month later — and with score 1-11 against Monaghan and 2-5 against Kerry respectively.

Sinead Aherne celebrates after the game Tommy Dickson / INPHO Aherne with the Brendan Martin trophy last year. Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

The 2018 Player of the Year is in her 16th season, and there’s no sign of her slowing down after captaining the county to back-to-back All-Ireland crowns and her 13th provincial title. 

Aherne leads the scoring charge every time without fail, and just like Leonard, her free-taking is absolutely impeccable. Herself, along with other big names like Noelle Healy and Lyndsey Davey need to step up again this week.

Sinead Goldrick

There have been a few switch-ups in the Dublin team this year with Siobhan McGrath moving from defence to midfield and Lauren Magee and Olwen Carey often coming back to the wings. Leah Caffrey has been a huge loss in the backline but one solid player who has held it all together is Goldrick.

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Sinead Goldrick Tommy Dickson / INPHO Goldrick (5) backed up by McGrath in last year's semi-final win. Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

A victim to injury herself this season, evergreen ‘Goldie’ has been a huge driving force for Dublin through the years. The Foxrock-Cabinteely star is in her prime, a rock-solid defender; nothing short of a workhorse and a real harrier in the tackle.

Her speed and athleticism is another huge factor of her game, her driving runs forward can really hurt opposition as she leads the way with Dublin’s running game.


Saoirse Noonan

Again, it’s uncertain whether the young dual star will start or be unleashed from the bench tomorrow, but either way, Noonan will take it all in her stride.

Saoirse Noonan Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Saoirse Noonan has starred for Cork this year since returning from injury. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

She’s a remarkable talent, and her scoring stats speak for themselves in a hugely talented Cork forward line alongside the likes of Eimear Scally, Orla Finn and long-range shooting specialist Doireann O’Sullivan. Dublin know all about the danger she poses however, completely shutting the Nemo Rangers ace out on the biggest stage in last year’s All-Ireland final. 

20-year-old Noonan will surely use her Croke Park return as a shot at redemption, however, proving that she can most definitely put it up to the best.

Niamh Cotter

After missing out last year through a college Erasmus in Canada, the Beara midfielder is back to her brilliant best and pulling the strings from midfield for Ephie Fitzgerald’s Division 1 league and Munster champions. 

Niamh Cotter Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Cotter on the ball in June. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

Cotter finished up with 1-2 from play in the Leesider’s final quarter-final against Tyrone, starting at centre-half forward on that occassion. Just as easily, she could slip into defence and do a job. 

That day, she was returning from a hand injury but looks to be in good stead once again approaching Cork’s biggest challenge yet. Her towering height and excellent fielding skills should also be of huge importance tomorrow.

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