Cork forward, Eimear Scally, is confident that her county can bounce back from last year’s All Ireland loss to Dublin and reclaim the Brendan Martin Cup.
The two counties have been vying for the top spot over the past number of years but 2019 may prove to be a much tougher task with counties like Donegal, Galway and Mayo also proving to be lethal opponents throughout the League so far.
Cork’s panel has lost a few familiar faces since their period of dominance, with legends such as Rena Buckley and Brid Stack announcing their retirement, but Scally insists that the younger girls have learned enough from their predecessors to build on their legacy.
“We lost some of those Cork players who were winning All-Ireland’s for years, but a lot of the girls on the panel at the moment would have learned a lot from those girls over the years. It’s just about instilling belief in everyone.
“We all have success whether it was underage All-Ireland or one with the senior, look we’re good enough, the panel is there, there is no reason why we can’t work hard enough and go on and win an All-Ireland again this year.
“I just don’t think there is much between the top couple of teams, to be honest. Dublin have a good base there with players, and they are the benchmark there now and it’s about knocking them off it.”
The 22 year-olds focus will momentarily shift off the inter-county scene, as she prepares to lead her college, UL, into another Gourmet Food Parlour O’Connor Cup semi-final against Queens University on Friday in Abbottstown.
The 2017 champions lost out to rivals, DCU, in last year’s decider but made amends last week by beating the Dublin side by three points last week to qualify for the weekend of the competition. However, Scally warns that the win will mean nothing if they can’t back it up with silverware on Saturday.
“Since I have come in there’s been that rivalry with DCU and it’s great to have. You have great chats with the girls off the pitch and then when you are on it, you’re going hammer and tongs at it. It was nice to play and win against them there, but it won’t mean anything unless we can go on and win the cup.”
Their opponents, Queens, are a bit of an unknown entity to the Limerick side but they will be taking nothing for granted following last year’s heartbreak.
“They weren’t around the last couple of years since I’ve been playing college ball, but they’ve shone big time this year and they’ll be a serious outfit come game time. We don’t know that much about them, we played them in a league semi-final but sure look, the teams are different, there’s huge steps taken as both teams go on towards championship.
“We’ll be going in not knowing a huge amount about them, but we’ll be concentrating on our own game anyway.”
A key factor in UL’s continued strength in the competition is the consistency of their management with the current team of DJ Collins, Niall O’Meara and Colm Canning currently in their third year together.
Scally praises the energy Tipperary senior hurler, O’Meara, has brought to the set-up but insists that the onus is on the players to drive the standards among themselves.
“We have a great management team in there between Colm Canning doing strength and conditioning, Niall O’Meara from Tipp and DJ Collins who’s been there for years.
“Niall came in when I came into UL first so I have had him the whole time, he brings such an energy to training and it’s amazing, and he’s such a good trainer. He has the respect of all the girls, he knows when to be serious, knows when to have the craic and, in fairness, you could go and talk to Niall about anything.
“I think a lot of emphasis is put on the players to drive the team and decisions as regards standards. The management step in when they have to, to take the training or say a few words before games, but a lot of it is put on the players which is great and I think it’s a huge thing for us in UL.”