Cork won five All-Irelands in the last decade but have not added to their overall tally of 24 since 2009. While there have been plenty of changes to the squad over the years, a number of players remain that participated in three or four of those finals writes Daragh O'Conchuir ahead of this weekend's double header Liberty Insurance Senior Championship quarter-finals in the Gaelic Grounds, Limerick.
It would be easy for the likes of this year’s captain Anna Geary, recently-married Jenny O’Leary, Briege Corkery, Rena Buckley, Aoife Murray, Gemma O’Connor and co to have called it quits at this stage but they clearly retain a voracious appetite for glory.
The prospect of going a fifth championship without reaching the Promised Land is too much to bear and with players of the calibre of Katrina Mackey and Julia White having gained vital experience in recent years, are driven to succeed this time around under Paudie Murray.
After dispensing with Dublin, they lost by six points to a resurgent Wexford at Wexford Park but bounced back well to account for Galway comfortably (0-15 to 0-7) to secure second place in Group 1 and top seeding for the quarter-finals.
As is their wont, Offaly have improved in the course of their Group 2 campaign. They suffered a horrific 23-point loss at the hands of League champions Kilkenny early on but the two-point defeat by Clare probably restored confidence.
They needed to win their last two games to make it through to the last six and while Derry and Tipperary proved tricky opposition, the Faithful
women made it through. Elaine Dermody, Aoife Kelly and Michaela Morkan are redoubtable campaigners that have come through the ranks in recent years and already hold junior and intermediate All-Ireland medals.
Cork will be very wary of the fact that Offaly almost shocked Wexford in last year’s quarter-final, failing by the narrowest of margins. The Leesiders will need to improve on what they have delivered to date but they will be favourites to advance to the semi-finals.
Clare v Galway
This is a heavyweight pairing, with the All-Ireland champions playing the National League finalists. Clare already have Galway’s scalp this year but despite their gradual progress in recent seasons to the point where they are now a team to be feared by everyone, they have yet to topple one of the big guns in the knockout stages of the ultimate competition. They will see this as a good opportunity.
The question, of course, is where are Galway at? Does Tony Ward have them timing their run, to be primed from this juncture onwards? The failure to make an impact in the spring wasn’t a huge surprise after ending an 18-year famine since they garnered the breakthrough All-Ireland.
They haven’t really turned heads in the summer either though and only had to win one game – against an undermanned Dublin – to stay alive.
They were a clear second best to Wexford and Cork however.
With the fact that only one win was needed though, there is the possibility that they were holding their powder drive. They didn’t really get going until it was do-or-die last year either. Having said that, there is no measuring stick for the influence Therese Maher had on this side and now that she has retired, it is clearly going to be difficult to replace her leadership attributes, not to mention her magnificence as a centre-back.
Clare are physically strong and they have shown good mental fortitude too to recover from a 14-point defeat in the League final by Kilkenny. That was their first ever national senior decider though and they defeated Galway and Cork to get there.
They garnered the expected wins over Offaly, Derry and Tipperary to reach this juncture and got much closer to Kilkenny in Ennis (four points) than they had done in Thurles. Eimear Considine is fully recovered from a knee ligament injury suffered in the League final, while Deirdre Murphy continues to lead the way. Máire McGrath is inspirational at full-back and Chloe Morey, Claire McMahon and Niki Kaiser are all accurate freetakers.
*Pictured Niamh O'Dea, Clare