Fitzgerald predicts 'frenetic' Ladies Football Final
By John Harrington
Cork manager Ephie Fitzgerald is predicting an exciting, attacking game of football in Sunday’s TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Senior Football Final against Dublin.
Both teams have racked up some high scores along the way to the biggest game of the year, and Fitzgerald expects the Croke Park crowd will be kept on the edges of their seats by their offensive style of football.
“I would hope so, anyway,” he told GAA.ie “We don't do defence and Dublin don't either. Like, we defend as a team, but we're not into that kind of blanket stuff and Dublin are the same. They back their players to do a job for them.
“From that point of view I think it will be a very good game of football. I could safely say that we're the two fittest teams in the country.
“I think that will be shown in the speed of the game on Sunday. I think it'll be a very fast game of frenetic, end to end football.”
An extra dash of spice is added to Sunday’s showdown by the fact that these two counties have such a long and storied rivalry.
Dublin lost three All-Ireland Finals in a row to the Rebels from 2014 to 2016 before they finally got over the line in last year’s decider against Mayo.
They’d love nothing more than to finally get the better of Cork in an All-Ireland Final, but Fitzgerald believes the rivalry between the two counties is a healthy rather than edgy one.
“I've been asked the question hundreds of times over the last while about the Dublin Cork rivalry and all of that,” he said.
“But, honestly, off the field the Cork and Dublin girls are great friends. We were away in Bangkok earlier in the year and there was a fair share of both there and we all got on great.
“I get on well with Mick (Bohan), so it's a sporting rivalry and that's it. There's nothing more than that there. And if Dublin win on Sunday we'll be the first to congratulate them and I'm sure likewise with them.
“I think the rivalry is a healthy one that's good for Ladies Football. I would hope there would be a massive crowd there again on Sunday to add to the spectacle and I think there will.”
Fitzgerald believes this Dublin team has gone from strength to strength under their manager Mick Bohan and will have an edge in experience over his new-look Cork team.
“They're very well organised, but they've always been good," he said. "Even if you look at the teams that played against what would have been the more experienced Cork team, there was never much more than a kick of a ball between the teams.
“I think their age-profile would suggest they're more experienced than us. The forward-line they have are probably there for the last four or five years together.
“Their defence is fairly settled. So their age-profile would be mid to late twenties whereas ours would be 21 to 25 or 26.
“So they're settled. Have they improved? Yes I think they have. And I think the confidence of winning an All-Ireland, you can't buy that.
“They've won a National League for the first time this year as well so they have the two National competitions.
“I think that will give them huge confidence. But I don't think they were lacking in that anyway.”
Before Dublin were crowned All-Ireland champions last year, Cork had won the previous six All-Ireland Finals in a row.
Most of the legendary players who were involved in those wins as well as the five-in-a-row they won from 2005 to 2009 are now retired, but Fitzgerald believes his new-look team are capable of making their own piece of history this Sunday.
“I think there's a freshness about us,” he said. “We're looking forward to the challenge. We're going into a Final for the first time as underdogs, so we're looking forward to that challenge.
“I think if we play to our potential we're certainly in there with a great shout.
“But, every game just takes on a life of its own so you just don't know. We're certainly looking forward to a challenge.”