LGFA MUNSTER SFC FINAL
Kerry v Cork
Saturday, May 28
Fitzgerald Stadium at 12.15
After two routine enough wins in their semi-finals, where Kerry accounted for Tipperary by 2-12 to 0-8 and Cork saw off Waterford by 4-10 to 1-12, the old firm will resume battle at Fitzgerald Stadium next Saturday in the Munster Final.
Although the ladies final is the curtain raiser to the men's decider it could prove to be the more exciting and competitive of the two games as Kerry are certainly in with a major shout of upsetting the Rebel aristocrats, and they will go into the encounter with a major amount of confidence after their successful National League campaign which culminated with a 1-12 to 0-12 victory over Armagh in the Division Two decider.
It’s not as if the gap has been huge to begin with as the Kingdom have always put it up to the Rebels and in fact only lost out by three points in a rip-roaring qualifier in Austin Stack Park back in 2020 where the Kingdom had plenty chances to get a result but failed to take them. That day saw the arrival of Siofra O’Shea to inter-county senior football with two points, and after nine months out with an ACL injury the South Kerry star could have a part to play once more for Kerry this weekend.
The sides will come into the encounter after contrasting National League campaigns with Kerry sailing through Division Two and producing a splendid display to topple Armagh in the final. Cork, on the other hand, operated in the rarefied atmosphere of Division One football and after an opening day win over Waterford they were crushed by Dublin on a 2-13 to 2-3 scoreline, but put up a much better show against All Ireland champions Meath in their third game before losing out by 2-7 to 1-8.
New Cork manager Shane Ronayne welcomed back Eimear Meaney, captain Maire O’Callaghan, and the O’Sullivan sisters, Ciara and Doireann, from Munster Club champions Mourneabbey (Ronayne also double jobbed as manager of the club side) for their Munster Championship encounter against Waterford and they added quality and experience to the ranks. They have other top-notch performers in the likes of Mellissa Duggan, Áine Terry O’Sullivan (who slotted two goals past the Déise), Aishling Hutchings, Emma Cleary and Orla Finn.
The one thing about this Kerry team is that they certainly won’t fear the Rebels as they’ve had plenty of success over them in the past. Some of the younger members of the squad have rarely tasted defeat against Cork sides at underage level whilst the more experienced campaigners like Lorraine Scanlon, Cait Lynch, Aishling O’Connell, Eilis Lynch, captain Anna Galvin, and Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh have had Munster Championship final success over the rebels in 2013 and 2015.
Kerry come into the game with a mostly clean bill of health bar two significant injuries. Sticky corner back Julie O’Sullivan who really came of age as a senior player this year with some noteworthy performances, is ruled out with a hip injury and she will be a loss. Likewise, impressive newcomer Meadhbh Johnson is out with an ankle injury although the long-term diagnosis is that she will be back in action in a couple of weeks.
Mary O’Connell has been out for a number of weeks with an ankle injury but should be ok to take her place in the squad for Saturday, and there is also good news about Paris McCarthy who went off in the Tipperary game with yet another ankle injury and the Castleisland girl will be available for selection for Saturday. Eilis Lynch, back from an ACL, also came through the game against Tipperary with flying colours and should slot into the unfortunate O’Sullivan’s corner back spot once more.
The final outcome of Saturday’s decider will determine two things. The first is who will be crowned Munster Champions and the second is to decide what group for the All-Ireland series that the winners or runners up slot into.
The winners of the Munster Final will go in a group with Ulster runners up Donegal and Waterford whilst the losing side will be pitted against Galway and Westmeath. With two to come through, realistically Kerry should be well able to qualify out of either group so the most important factor about Saturday is to claim the Munster trophy.
And will Kerry be good enough to do so? It must be remembered that Cork were within seconds of an All-Ireland final last year before two goals in the dying seconds by Meath forced extra time that the Royals subsequently won before going on to beat Dublin in the All Ireland final. Cork still have the majority of that team to choose from so any narrative about a team on the wane doesn’t cut the ice.
On the other hand, this is a Kerry team whose stock is very much on the rise. The National League victory has instilled a belief in the squad and management that they can reach greater heights and there is no reason why they can’t announce themselves on a national stage once more on Saturday.
One can take Kerry to win after a see-saw battle with their bench making a major impact once more, but there might only be a kick of a ball in it at the finish.