The sharp transition from winter into spring always seems to spark life into GAA competitions. Believe it or not, 2018 appears to be different.
With a backdrop of crippling younger players, fixing matches during near impossible conditions to clubs crying out for a much-needed injection of life, this Saturday night, we turn our attention to a double-header of a different kind.
Last week, Croke Park opened its doors to clubs from far and wide. My own parish of Duhallow had two representatives, Kanturk in intermediate hurling and Knocknagree in junior football, respectively, who both succeeded in returning home with the silverware.
This weekend, while bonfires and celebrations continue, the attention turns to the next double-header of Dublin versus Cork in the ladies football and then Dublin versus Donegal.
I'm a massive fan of double-headers. The idea of an opening act, just like any opening act at a concert, is to play the hits and hope a portion of the fans like it, identify with it and start giving you their attention. I can only see positives. Women's football is a sport on an upward trend. The SeriousSupport campaign by Lidl has helped bring the LGFA to dizzying new heights.
Players are no longer anonymous in mainstream media, and every weekend we now see match reports on games whereas, a few years ago, these would not have existed unless the ladies game preceded a men’s game.
Thankfully, with sponsorship, proper marketing and investment, these players are as out there as the men’s teams.
The best thing about double-headers is the fact that now ultimately stretched resources within the media no longer have to worry about being sexist by not covering games. Yes, it’s a crying shame, but sometimes you have to appreciate that manpower is a huge factor in deciding what games can be reported, broadcasted or even mentioned.
Eir Sport announced last week it was showing all four Dublin games. Immediately, I knew there would be a pro-Dublin slant, but, budgets for travelling also need to be accounted for. While I would love to report on games every weekend, sometimes it’s genuinely not feasible.
Another critical factor is that venues aren’t released until the week of a fixture. And sometimes, if you’re lucky, that venue will be on Google Maps. The only benefit to this is that you’ll create memories with your travel buddies as your map co-ordinates send you down a boreen, and you begin to ask in your best Linda Martin impression – why me.
But, on to the big game. Dublin v Cork has always been a showcase game, a game that highlights skill, talent, hard work and a never-say-die attitude. Whenever these sides meet in the championship, it’s always come down to the wire. These games are the definition of fine margins.
After seeing Cork perform against Monaghan, it looks like this game could be a cracker and an excellent match to showcase and boost the women’s game.
Orla Finn is unquestionably on fire in her shooting game while Eimear Scally continues to mix speed with delightful accuracy – her dinky finish has become the must-see women's football video of the week.
On the flip side, the defence, at times, can look a bit shaky. Cora Courtney was unusually not on song, but the Monaghan forwards showed that pushing up on Cork’s defence and kick-outs can create nervy times for the Rebelettes. While we all wait with baited breath to see if Bríd Stack returns, now is the time for a young up-and-coming star, such as Beatrice Casey, to cement their position among the backs.
From a Dublin perspective, they, like Cork, are two from two and, while the team are focused on this season, it's always hard to create that same desire and hunger after a victory. Sinead Aherne is still terrorising defences across the country as she had 1-6 to her name in a five-point victory over Munster champions Kerry.
Unlike Cork, Dublin have welcomed faces new and old with Siobhán McGrath (who won an All Ireland medal in 2010), minor players Muireann Ní Scanaill and Lucy Collins, as well as county champions Foxrock-Cabinteely's, Emma McDonagh. Dublin are also waiting on Amy Connolly and Sinead Finnegan to return from injuries.
For those interested, the match is on eir Sport 1 at 5pm. For those who are travelling from far and wide, take a look at the action. You’d never know, you might enjoy it.
So, while the glamour tie of the day may be Dublin v Donegal, keep an eye out for the curtain-raiser. Curtain-raisers rarely outshine the main act, but, for now, I think it’s time we let the women write the story.