By Jackie Cahill
Cork legend Bríd Stack is relishing the prospect of another titanic TG4 All-Ireland Senior Ladies Football Championship collision between her native county and holders Dublin.
Should Cork and Dublin, two of the leading contenders for Brendan Martin Cup glory on September 15, top their round-robin qualifier groups and then successfully negotiate their respective quarter-finals, they’re scheduled to meet in the All-Ireland semi-final on August 25.
Cork and Dublin have met in four of the last five Finals and these old rivals served up their latest classic in the Lidl National League Division 1 semi-final in April, when Cork dethroned 2018 League winners Dublin after extra-time at Nowlan Park.
Stack, an 11-time All-Ireland Senior winner during her playing days, acknowledges that there’s plenty of football to be played before the two counties lock horns again, but she admits that it would be a tie to savour.
She explained: “It’s just vital that they’re at their peak come that game – and it’s going to be a savage game if it does happen.
“You would be lining up for a new pairing as well for the All-Ireland Final, which would be great for the game.
“In the last five years, Cork and Dublin have met in four All-Ireland Finals but we saw the excitement that Mayo and their loyal supporters brought to Croke Park in 2017, and the attendance shot up.”
A record 50,141 attendance was present at Croke Park to watch Dublin win two-in-a-row last September.
Cork were runners-up and Stack says that squad depth will play a huge part as the Rebelettes look to dethrone the holders, as Dublin aim for three-in-a-row.
She added: “We saw in the League semi-final that very little separated the teams.
“With the run of games ahead, squad depth is going to be absolutely vital.
“Dublin have Sinead Goldrick back from injury but they unfortunately lost captain Sinead Aherne to injury in the Leinster Final.”
Jennifer Dunne, who had plenty of game time during the Lidl National League, slotted in early for Aherne and played well against Westmeath in the provincial decider, illustrating the strength in depth that manager Mick Bohan has at his disposal.
Carla Rowe, two-goal star in the 2018 All-Ireland Senior Final, missed out on the Leinster Final too through injury and she’s working her way back to fitness for Dublin.
Stack said: “Mick Bohan used a lot of players in the League and Cork have (captain) Doireann O’Sullivan back in training, which is a big boost.
“But during the week, Niamh Cotter picked up a hand injury in club football – so it’s going to come down to squads.
“The semi-final is still a few games away and a lot can happen. All teams will focus on the groups first and it’s going to come down to what teams cope best with their fixtures.”
Dublin find themselves in Group 2 alongside Munster runners-up Waterford and Monaghan, while Cork are in Group 1 alongside Ulster sides Armagh and Cavan.
Dublin open their group campaign against Waterford next Saturday, with Cork not in action until July 20, when they play Cavan.
The 2019 TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Football Championships will be officially launched at Croke Park later today (TUES).