Just one week on from Dublin’s historic All-Ireland victory, it’s the ladies turn as Ulster Champions Monaghan arrive at Croke Park in search of their first title in 14 years.
Standing between them and All-Ireland Football glory is the unyielding figure of Munster Champions Cork, no strangers to this stage of the competition.
The Rebelettes have been the masters of Ladies Football for the last number of years and could have been on song to claim a seventh All-Ireland title in a row only for their slip up to Tyrone in last year’s Quarter Final.
However, the defeat only served to galvanise both the team and the management and they have battled back to the top of Ladies football with impressive displays in both League and Championship to date.
For their own part, Monaghan have been in equally impressive form this season with a League semi-final loss to Laois the only blot on an otherwise perfect season thus far.
That League campaign included a win over Cork and the Farney County will know that it is well within them to win a first All-Ireland since 1997.
For five consecutive years, Cork reigned supreme and it seemed the women from Munster were unbeatable. In true sporting fashion however, a lacklustre performance against Tyrone last year brought the rebelettes’ steam train to an end and opened the door for Dublin to claim their first ever All-Ireland title.
However, Cork proved that last year’s disappointing defeat is well and truly behind them following a morale boosting victory over Dublin in the 2011 All-Ireland Quarter-final.
The rebelettes it seemed, were down and out having trailed a dominant Dublin side for much of the game. However a powerhouse performance from Cork in the last ten minutes saw them overcome a shell-shocked Dublin outfit by a one-point margin.
They then went on to easily overpower Laois in the semi final by 4-10 to 1-6, earning themselves their sixth All-Ireland Final appearance in seven years.
“Dublin were favourites after last year and deservedly so”, said Cork’s Ciara O’ Sullivan. “We were wary going into it and there was a lot of hype so it was a tough game and we were lucky to get over it”, she continued. “The girls did very well; it looked dead and gone, but in fairness to the girls they dug deep so we’re hoping that experience will stand to us if needs be.”
Monaghan’s marauding full-forward Ciara Mc Anespie was full of praise for the resolve of the Cork team and is looking forward to a tough challenge on Sunday.
“Cork are a great team and they showed that they were capable of coming back after the disappointment of last year. To be back in an All-Ireland final demonstrates the character of the Cork team.”
Monaghan also had a battle on their hands to reach Sunday’s title decider and fought back against a resilient Kerry side to put themselves just sixty minutes away from winning a first All-Ireland title since they did the double in 1996 and 1997.
The Farney County had previously got the better of Meath in the Quarter-final by 2-13 to 0-8.
Mc Anespie believes that their tough semi-final outing displayed the character and strength of the Farney women and the experience will stand to them as they face the daunting prospect of overcoming an experienced Cork outfit.
“Kerry came at us in the second half, especially in the first ten half minutes and we had to dig deep”, said Mc Anespie. We got the two goals at the crucial time and I think the character of the team shone through on the day. It was great that we were fit enough to come back and not panic and I suppose that will give us confidence going into the final”, believes Ciara.
Cork will go into Sunday’s game as slight favourites given their wealth of experience which includes five back to back All-Ireland titles.
They will aslo take heart from being the team who ended Monaghan’s title bid when they last reached the All-Ireland Final in 2008.
However, the Farney women will be more than up for the challenge and Sunday looks set to be a close, hard-fought encounter with both sides impressing from 1 to 15 this season. Sharon Courtney, Therese McNally and Ciara McAnespie have impressed for Monaghan, while Cork ’s Amy O’Shea, Anne Marie Walsh and Rhona Ní Bhuachalla have all stood out.
The Senior Final, while set to be the stand-out game of the day, is only one match in a Croke Park triple header as three grades of ladies football take to the field this Sunday.
Westmeath and Cavan will battle it out for TG4 Intermediate honours with both counties hoping to secure their first ever All-Ireland Intermediate title.
Westmeath have been one of the stories of the Ladies Football season with a first ever National League title followed by a first ever Leinster title.
They will be hoping to add a third trophy to their growing collection this Sunday in the form of the Mary Quinn Memorial Quinn.
However, they will need to be on top form in order to overcome their Cavan opponents who have been building steadily all year and dismissed a hotly tipped Leitrim side in the semi-final after extra time.
Sunday’s curtain raiser will see novel pairing Wicklow and New York come face to face in the TG4 all Ireland Junior Final. The Garden County last won an All Ireland in 1990, but have been knocking on the door for the last number of years.
For New York, this is their first involvement in the TG4 Championship since 2002 and they have not disappointed with a dramatic return, which saw them reach a first final since 1999.
All three games will be broadcast live on TG4 starting with the Junior final which gets underway at 12 noon. The Intermediate final throws in at 2.00pm while the showpiece Senior final starts at 4.00pm.
Senior Final – 4.00pm:
Cork: E Harte, AM Walsh, A Walsh, D O’ Reilly, B Corkery, B Stack, G O’ Flynn, J Murphy, R Buckley, N Cleary, M Kelly, G Kearney, V Mulcahy, R Ní Bhuachalla, A O’ Shea (c)
Monaghan: L Martin, G McNally, S Courtney (c), C Reilly, A McAnespie, N Fahy, L Connolly, A Casey, C Courtney, T McNally, E McCarron, C McConnell, C McAnespie, N Kindlon, C Mohan
Intermediate Final – 2.00pm:
Cavan: C McCutcheon, C O’Reilly, G McGlade, C Grey, R Murphy, P Crowe, D English, R Crowe, A Cornyn, R O’Keefe, B Sheridan, E Costin, B Boylan, C O’Reilly, A Donnan (c)
Westmeath: G Leahy, A Martin, G Kearney, T Durkan, K Boyce Jordan, J Rogers, M Malone, MA Foley, F Claffey, E Finn (c), R Kearney, L Brennan, L Walsh, K Somers, J Maher
Junior Final – 12.00pm:
Wicklow: E Miley, J Miley, C Byrne, A Heffernan, L Fusciardi, C McKeon (c), N Kelly, J Kinch, L Gilbert, AM Doran, C Deeney, L Ahern, E Lenihan, L Mulhall, N Carroll
New York: A Leyden, L Lilly, T McCullagh, I Mullarkey, J Garcia, C Brady, J Monaghan, L McKeon, A O’Dwyer, M O’Rourke (c), K Roche, C Traynor, E Clarke, F O’Dwyer, M De Búrca