Cork/Dublin dominance a worry but rest must step up - O'Hanlon
Armagh star Caroline O'Hanlon admits that the dominance of ladies football by Dublin and Cork is "worrying" but believes that other teams need to up their games to break the duopoly.
Nobody other than the big two have claimed the Brendan Martin Cup since Galway's success in 2004.
And while the pair have contested four of the last five finals, the duopoly must be prematurely interrupted this season as the all-conquering duo clash in this Sunday's semi-finals.
Mayo, the last side other than Dublin and Cork to feature in a final in the last six years, will face off against Connacht champions Galway as the semi-finals take place at GAA HQ for the first time in the sport's history.
"It's a brilliant initiative by the LGFA that the two semi-finals will be held in Croke Park and it's a massive step forward for our sport," says the 2006 All-Ireland final runner-up O'Hanlon, who doubles up as a Northern Ireland netball international.
"There have been great crowds for the recent finals and hopefully the same will happen on Sunday.
"Cork and Dublin have dominated for the last 15 years I guess and with the pool of players and population sizes, it is difficult.
"They have a conveyor belt of talent and naturally that is a worrying thing.
"But when you are playing them, it's 15 on 15 and every county has 15 quality players. You can't always go on talking about any dominance because otherwise you'll never beat these teams."
Armagh did beat Cork in the championship this season but O'Hanlon rues the inconsistency that has dogged her side in recent times.
"When teams underestimate us we can catch them but on other days we lose games we shouldn't.
"We beat both Dublin and Cork in the league a few years ago but got relegated because we lost against all the other teams. Basically, if you let these teams get a good start, they'll kill you.
"They are both going to be really close games. Cork and Dublin had a tight league encounter and their rivalry has been so intense in recent years.
"The fact that they haven't met at this stage in a few years makes it intriguing and Dublin, in particular, they'll have a point to prove after their league campaign.
"Galway have had the upper hand in a lot of their matches against Mayo in recent times but the margins have been so fine. Most people will expect the winners of Dublin and Cork to lift the trophy but Division 1 has been really tight so there's no guarantees."
O'Hanlon was speaking as Lidl Ireland launched their #SeriousSupport Schools Programme, supported by the LGFA and delivered by the Youth Sports Trust. Lidl Ireland have invested over €125,000 in this new initiative which aims to reduce the drop-off rate in sport participation amongst girls aged 11-14 years.
O'Hanlon will join other GAA stars such as Mayo's Cora Staunton and Dublin's Carla Rowe in an attempt to reverse the startling drop-out rates in sport amongst female teenagers.
Research shows that by age 13, one in two girls drop out of sport while girls are three times more likely to give up sport than boys. Yet, it was discovered that girls who continue to play team sports are four times more likely to feel body confident.
As well as that, 50 per cent feel more supported and 80 per cent are more likely to have positive mental well-being when compared with their peers who do not play any sport.
Already piloted in seven schools, the Lidl #SeriousSupport Schools Programme has delivered proven results and provides schools with the opportunity to make a considerable impact amongst young female students.
A review of the pilot programme found that 96 per cent of participants felt the programme increased their aspirations, while 92 per cent felt it increased their confidence. A staggering 98 per cent found the programme increased their team work.
Other mentors involved are Lyndsey Davey, Dublin; Donna Berry, Kildare; Eilish Ward, Donegal; Katy Herron, Donegal; Louise Galvin, Kerry; Lucy Hannon, Galway and Sinéad Burke, Galway.