Joanne O’Riordan: Faithful star Egan delivers on the double

Offaly player notched a combined 4-13 in camogie and football over one weekend

 Cork goalkeeper Martina O’Brien, bottom, can’t stop Tipperary from scoring a goal during the  Lidl Ladies Football National League Division 1B clash at   Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Cork. Photograph:  Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Cork goalkeeper Martina O’Brien, bottom, can’t stop Tipperary from scoring a goal during the Lidl Ladies Football National League Division 1B clash at Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Cork. Photograph: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

 

Declan Carr, former Tipperary All-Ireland hurling medal winner and current Tipperary ladies football manager, wasn’t far wrong when he said that ladies' football is a “savage product”, and as close to free-flowing and pacy football as one could wish for.

If you prefer good offence over good defence, chances are women’s football is your game.

As my brother would say, it’s crazy football. The ball is no sooner lost in a full forward line when everyone is busting a gut to get back to defend at the other end, only for one defence-slicing pass to open an inviting goal chance.

It’s non-contact (unless you’ve seen the brilliant picture from Sportsfile’s Piaras Ó Midheach on the cover of last Saturday’s Irish Times), it’s blanket defenceless and it hasn’t been tainted by quirky rule changes that leave you bamboozled and angry.

It’s just football.

Last weekend was the dawn of a new season, one that will hopefully be devoid of drama off the field and full of drama on the field (don’t hold your breath, just in case!). Some of the big storylines before the weekend even started, you ask?

Well, Hannah Tyrrell, current Irish women’s rugby international, made her return to ladies football with Dublin over the weekend.

The three long-term Dublin musketeers of Sinead Aherne, Lyndsey Davey and Siobhán McGrath are all in it to win it for another year under Mick Bohan.

Galway are looking to reboot on their disappointing season-ending semi-final defeat against Cork last year, while Fiona McHale makes her long-awaited return to Mayo after a hiatus surrounded in controversy.

Finally, long-time promoters of the game, TG4, are set to increase their coverage by 150 per cent this year, announcing a new free streaming service with Lidl. Admittedly, it took my OAP tech mind quite a bit of effort to register, but once I was in, I was glued to my egg chair for the whole weekend.

But, on to the football.

Under Friday night lights in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, hopefully the new home of Cork senior women’s teams, Cork took on Tipperary, led by Aishling Moloney and Declan Carr.

This season promises to be one of the best seasons in ladies' football

For starters, Erika O’ Shea put in a textbook man-marking job on Aishling Moloney, limiting her to three scores which came from frees. Admittedly, Moloney will terrorise defences throughout the year. But, after a second-half surge, Cork saw off Tipperary 3-15 to 2-6.

In contention

Rachel Kearns of Mayo proved that Cork’s Saoirse Noonan isn’t the only one who can play in the Women’s National League and ladies football.

Kearns currently has 6 goals in the WNL and her goalscoring form translated to ladies football when she slotted home a penalty to put her side in contention is a West of Ireland El Clasico. Mayo scored 1-4 without reply in the closing five minutes to claim a 2-15 to 2-14 over Galway.

Up in Donegal, where Geraldine McLaughlin was making her 100th appearance for the county, newly-appointed captain Niamh McLaughlin got the game’s opening goal after just 16 seconds.

A couple of Karen Guthrie frees kept Donegal in control, but McLaughlin raced clear to score her second goal while Leona Archibold’s penalty was too little too late for Westmeath.

But, all eyes were on Dublin, where an All-Ireland hangover looked to be a real threat. It took them a while to get their foot on the gas pedal, that is until Sinead Aherne kicked her first point and it was a Dublin tsunami from there on out for opponents Waterford.

Irish rugby international Hannah Tyrrell kicked 1-5, Sinead Aherne scored 1-7, while further goals from Niamh Hetherton, Orlagh Nolan, Lyndsey Davey and Caoimhe O’Connor saw Dublin cruise to a comprehensive win.

The weekend belonged to one special talent, however. Offaly’s dual player Gráinne Egan hit a combined 4-13 in two codes. The Faithful legend scored 3-5 against Dublin in camogie and slotted home 1-8 in football against Carlow to cap off an extraordinary weekend, to say the least.

While Cork obviously won’t lack for motivation heading into this week’s game against Dublin, it’ll be a fantastic test between last year’s All Ireland finalists.

Donegal and Mayo are the other pick of the weekend, as the two up-and-coming contenders can gauge exactly where they are at before the championship season begins.

This season promises to be one of the best seasons in ladies' football and, sure, while fans still can’t physically get to games for the moment, it hasn’t stopped the wave of good publicity surrounding women’s sports.

We’re all riding the wave, we’re all excited to see what materialises. Let’s all form a prayers’ circle and hope the controversies steer clear of these pages for the next while at least!

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