Loss of centre-back O’connor a massive blow for Rebels
The loss of Cork centre back, Gemma O’connor, cannot be overstated. Her ability to dictate the play has been a key weapon in the Rebels’ arsenal over recent years, but so, too, have her leadership and calm under pressure on the biggest of days. The injury to O’connor has meant a re-jig by the Cork man- agement team — Eimear O’sullivan is selected at midfield, which frees Ashling Thompson to sit back into O’connor’s regular role. Thompson should slot in there without too much disruption and will lead by example.
Ann Dalton is the Kilkenny number six and is a hugely influential cog in Ann Downey’s side. She usually plays deep and is an excellent reader of the game. Her work-rate is relentless and she is in tremendous form again this year. Whichever side dominates this vital position will go a long way in deciding the destination of the O’duffy Cup.
Because of the shuffle, there is a new Cork midfield pairing, with O’sullivan linking up with Libby Coppinger. An experienced performer, O’sullivan is the holder of four All Ireland senior medals — her first in 2008 — and is an All-star recipient, so is no stranger to the big day. She in for O’connor, when she was injured in the Galway game. She was inspirational in the 2014 final, when she was awarded the player of the match. Coppinger, from the St Colum’s club, was on the Cork intermediate side that lost to Kilkenny last season (she was introduced as a substitute in the senior final) and has taken the step-up to the higher grade in her stride. So, there is a nice blend of youth and experience in this sector. But, they will need to be at their best, as they are likely to come up against dynamic sisters, Anna (captain) and Meighan Farrell, who have shown tremendous form in the champions return to the All-ireland final. Whoever comes out on top, here, will have a major say in determining the outcome. Orla Cotter v Denise Gaule Two forwards who are on the top of their game. Orla Cotter remains a formidable player for the Rebels, while 2016 player of the year, Denise Gaule, is criticame cal for the Black and Amber. Cotter has, so often, been the heartbeat of this team. She has the ability to shoot from distance and struck 1-3 in the semi-final. Likewise, 2016 player of the year, Denise Gaule, heads up the Kilkenny attack. The scorer of 1-2 in their penultimate round, she produces the goods time and again and is a strong and powerful player. Both women are capable of driving their counties to success.