Dublin ladies look to find top gear as they close in on maiden league title
After a decade of Cork dominance, tomorrow's Lidl Ladies NFL Division 1 final in Parnell Park (4.0) between Dublin and Mayo is somewhat unfamiliar territory, with the Dubs hoping to secure their first title and Mayo seeking their fourth, and what would be a first crown in 11 years.
Dublin selector and coach Sorcha Farrelly admits the All-Ireland champions were disappointed with their semi-final effort against Galway, but says they will be buoyed by the prospect of winning back-to-back national titles after their Croke Park success last year.
A close encounter in Kinnegad two weeks ago saw Galway set the pace, and they were still five points up with 20 minutes to go.
However, Dublin kept their opponents scoreless for the second half, with a late goal from sub Nicole Owens sealing their final date.
Reflecting on the performance, Farrelly admits: "To be honest we were very disappointed on the day. We didn't feel like we performed to the standard that we'd expect really.
"To take the positives, the girls dug deep and came out in the second half and found a way in the end, but we wouldn't have been happy with how we played.
"Galway are a very good side, they had beaten us in the league a few weeks before that and we were expecting a tough game and I suppose we felt that we were lucky to come away with the win."
One notable absentee from the Mayo side throughout this campaign has been Cora Staunton.
The talismanic forward has been Down Under playing with the Greater Western Sydney Giants in the AWFL and Mayo manager Peter Leahy has indicated he will sit down after the final to discuss her future with the county.
But in the meantime, we get a glimpse of what a post-Staunton Mayo will look like.
While comparisons with last year's All-Ireland final are inevitable, it shouldn't be forgotten that the two teams have met in this year's campaign already.
Two points separated the sides on a cold Saturday evening in Castlebar last February with the Dubs sealing victory thanks to goals from Oonagh Whyte.
According to Farrelly, the Sky Blues were keen to move on from their All-Ireland success and manager Mick Bohan used the league to try out new players.
"This is a new season, we're not thinking about last year, and to be honest, looking at how Mayo have progressed through the league, they have really improved week to week and have really found a good balance in their team and I think that it will be a really tough game for us," she reasoned.
We played them at the end of February and they have improved an awful lot since then and we are looking forward to the challenge, that's what you want, it is great to be in the league final.
"Coming in to the league we have been using a lot of players and focusing on each game and just getting performances, so honestly we weren't even thinking of that (winning their first Division 1 title) but now that we're in it, obviously every game you're in you want to win but when you're in a final you really want to win it and that would be great.
"But it is a tough ask against Mayo, they'll be in the exact same position and they'll be really up for this game as well."
With Mayo out for revenge for last year's heavy All-Ireland final reversal and the Jackies seeking their maiden Division 1 crown, neither side lacks incentive, so a ding-dong tussle looks assured.