Championship is wide open insists Donegal manager

All-Ireland Senior Ladies Football Championship Group D Round 2

Donegal v Cork

Sunday, Clane, 2pm

CORK may not have won the Brendan Martin Cup since 2016, but Donegal manager Maxi Curran insists the Rebels are still in the mix for the “most wide open” Championship for some time.

A win for Donegal against Cork on Sunday would leave them top of Group D ahead of the quarter-finals.

Curran’s side had to dig deep to get over Waterford last weekend and see’s Sunday’s showdown as a “winnable” game.

“It is a big challenge,” he told Gaelic Life.

“We know we can match anybody on our day and we just hope we can get the rub of the green on Sunday.”

Cork won 11 All-Irelands out of 12 after reaching the top in 2005, with Tyrone stopping them making it a dozen titles with a 3-11 to 0-11 quarter-final defeat in 2010.

“They haven’t won one since 2016 so it is a barren period for them, but they still have a lot (six) of All-Ireland medal holders in their squad this week and are still a very formidable challenge,” said Curran of this weekend’s challenge.

Marie Ambrose, Ciara O’Sullivan, Doireann O’Sullivan, Orla Finn, Eimear Scally and goalkeeper Martina O’Brien were part of Cork’s golden era, with Ciara O’Sullivan a holder of eight medals.

“When you talk about a list of teams who can win the All-Ireland, they are one of the names out of everybody’s mouth,” Curran feels, pointing to how Cork forced the rest of Ireland to take stock and raise their standards across the board.

Since then, Dublin won four titles with Meath taking the title last year.

“They (Cork) have had a massive influence on where the game is now and were the standard bearers for so long,” he added.

“Everybody else had to take stock and take correct measures to compete with them, it has left the game in a really good footing today.”

Donegal were left with their own soul searching after their extra-time defeat to Armagh in a pulsating Ulster final when they had worked themselves into a winning position on two occasions without finishing off the job.

While Curran used the words “naivety” of the unforced errors that led to the “frustrating” of defeat, he gave Armagh full credit for their win and how they hung on when the game was going against them. Bouncing back to beat Waterford last weekend left Donegal back on track for a first All-Ireland title, a race Curran feels has “four or five” teams in.

“It’s one of the most wide open championships as there has been for a long time,” he said, while enthused about the “serious upward curve” Ladies Football is on.

“It’s really starting to catch the imagination of people who weren’t au fait with it or a fan of it up to recent times. It is only going to get better, the Munster final between Cork and Kerry was a good a game of football as you’ll see, it was end to end football.”

On the downside, a knee injury saw Bláthnáid McLaughlin forced off six minutes into the win over Waterford has cast a shadow over her season. Curran confirmed the Moville player had a scan on Tuesday morning and is out of Sunday’s game.

“It doesn’t look great, she definitely won’t feature this Sunday and whatever else the future holds, we wish her well and hope it’s not as serious as it looks,” Curran said.

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