THE DISAPPOINTMENT SHONE through after another big-match defeat to Dublin, but the focus moves swiftly on.
Cork captain Martina O’Brien was keen to look forward after Saturday night’s Lidl Ladies National Football League Division 1 final defeat, which her side lost on a scoreline of 2-15 to 1-13.
Though four-in-a-row All-Ireland champions, this was just Dublin’s second top-flight league crown, having won their first in 2018.
The Rebels – who were reigning champions from 2019 – have been league specialists through the years, targeting title number 13 at Croke Park on Saturday night.
The sides have dominated the ladies football landscape of late, sharing every All-Ireland title and all but two league crowns – Monaghan won in ’12 and Mayo in ’07 – since 2005.
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They’ve unquestionably established themselves as the top two, with Dublin dominating since 2016, following Cork’s unparalleled reign of terror under the late, great Éamonn Ryan.
In the build-up to the final, O’Brien said she felt the gap was closing. “We have beaten them along the way, just not in the important matches,” she also noted.
While the Leesiders have won some league games between the counties over the past few years, the Sky Blues had the upper hand in both in 2021, having prevailed by a single point in the Páirc Uí Chaoimh round-robin tie.
The decider defeat was certainly a hammer blow, but O’Brien says there are positives to take for Ephie Fitzgerald’s side.
“Look we aimed to make it to the league final and we did,” she said afterwards. “Dublin are All-Ireland champions for the last four years so we weren’t coming up thinking we were going to get anything easy here.
We made a lot of mistakes again, but look, all you can do is learn from them. We hope to keep learning. Championship in two weeks time, we’re now concentrated on Meath. We have to learn quickly, we’re just going to go back to the drawing board and go again.”
“I suppose we don’t have too much time to dwell on it which is actually really good,” she added on the defeat. “There’s some years where you would have lost a game and you’d have 10 weeks to think about it. It’s probably good to kind of just get back to training.
“You can literally put the league away now, you learn what you can from it and take that forward. We can literally just put it aside and start fresh. Looking forward to championship starting now.”
Hard luck to our fantastic team , well done to @dublinladiesg on their victory .
Roll On The Championship .@eastcorklgf @mid_cork @NorthCorkLF @westcorkladies https://t.co/lwT9qGUbvV
— Cork LGFA (@CorkLGFA) June 26, 2021
Cork open their championship bid against the Royals, promoted to the senior ranks following last year’s All-Ireland intermediate championship triumph, on 10 July.
Meath will come in on a high, having sealed another promotion after being crowned Division 2 champions at HQ on Saturday night, so the Rebels know the height of the challenge which lies ahead.
With Tipperary – severely weakened by injury – also in Group B, the top two progress to the quarter-finals, and Cork will be hell-bent on stopping Dublin’s Drive For Five.
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To do so, improvements are needed, says O’Brien.
“I do think we need to learn from mistakes that we make in every match,” the goalkeeper concluded. “There seems to be a few that will reoccur.
“It’s just keeping that togetherness. When you lose like that, you can lose that… you can lose the forward momentum that you did have. We need to keep that.
“We’re going to be obviously upset after the loss or whatever but we literally have to get over it. By Wednesday night, get back training, and go again.”