Armagh ladies to face champions Cork in semi-final

August 25, 2014

Richard Bullick

Armagh have been drawn against All-Ireland champions Cork in the semi-finals of this season’s competition with the match set to take place on Saturday week at a venue yet to be announced.

That means the most successful side in the history of ladies gaelic football stands between James Daly’s ladies and what would be only Armagh’s second ever appearance in the senior showpiece.

But the ambitious Orchard outfit are bullishly upbeat about what is a difficult draw on paper and take the positive view that facing Cork now might be their best bet of actually lifting the trophy.

Croke Park, on the last Sunday in September, has become a real home from home for the Rebelettes with Cork incredibly crowned All-Ireland champions in eight of the last nine years.

To claim the top title you have to be prepared to take on and beat the best so Armagh are relishing the prospect of facing Cork again after running them agonisingly close last August.

The then unfancied Armagh got what seemed like the short straw at the time when being paired with Cork – recently dethroned as Munster champions by Kerry – at the last 12 stage of last season’s TG4 Senior Championship.

But Daly’s side pushed their illustrious opponents all the way in Birr before going down by the minimum margin, unluckily undermined by a slow scoreboard which confused Caroline O’Hanlon into not trying to equalise with a late free with her team only a point behind rather than two.

Armagh also lost by a single point to Cork in their previous Championship meeting, the Orchard county’s only appearance in an All-Ireland final to date eight years ago.

They have undoubtedly developed further in the intervening 12 months and possess the only 100 percent record in Ireland this year with 13 wins from 13 matches in all competitions.

Captain O’Hanlon has lifted the NFL Division Three and Ulster Senior Championship trophies and Armagh have emerged as All-Ireland dark horses on the back of four convincing victories on the trot over teams who spent the spring playing two League levels above them.

They beat bitter rivals Tyrone, unpredictable Donegal and formidable Monaghan to take their first Ulster title since 2007 and followed up with a 23-point pasting of outclassed Laois in this month’s All-Ireland quarter-final.

Cork will be a much tougher proposition than the heavily beaten Leinster finalists and have been back to normal winning ways this season after a mid-season stumble in 2013 which saw them relinquish their Munster title to Kerry.

This year, Eamonn Ryan’s ladies in red have won another National League title, reclaimed their provincial crown and eased into the All Ireland semi-finals by beating Mayo with a solid second half display.

As in this year’s men’s All-Ireland Championship, the quartet of TG4 Senior Championship semi-finalists are the teams who won their respective provincial titles with Dublin and Galway joining Armagh and Cork in the final four.

At the weekend the last two quarter-finals saw Connacht champions Galway overcome Monaghan by 0-17 to 0-14 after Leinster champions Dublin had defeated Kerry 2-12 to 1-10 in a Birr double-header.

Those two teams will meet in Saturday’s first semi-final and although either might have been easier opponents for the Orchard crew on paper, there is no fear factor for Armagh now in facing Cork.