Eyes peeled! 8 players to watch in this weekend’s All-Ireland club semi-finals

ON SUNDAY EVENING, we’ll have our 2018 All-Ireland ladies football senior club finalists and the focus will turn to the duel-battle for the Dolores Tyrrell Memorial Cup at Parnell Park.

Between now and then though, there’s two huge semi-finals down for decision — and they throw in at opposite ends of the country on Sunday afternoon, at 1pm and 2pm respectively.

60 minutes of football later, at least, and we’ll have the last two standing. With holders Carnacon out of the race, we’re guaranteed new champions for 2018.

Donaghmoyne and Fox-Cab met in the 2016 showpiece.

Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

Bray Emmets plays host to the highly-anticipated meeting of four in-a-row Dublin and Leinster kingpins Foxrock-Cabinteely and back-to-back All-Ireland champions in 2015 and 2016, Donaghmoyne (throw-in 1pm).

And in the West, Carnacon’s victors Kilkerrin/Clonberne from Galway are relishing the visit of five in-a-row Cork and Munster champions Mourneabbey (throw-in 2pm). 

Mourneabbey have come so close over the last few years.

Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

With each of the four sides in question sharing colourful histories between rivalries, victories and coming agonizingly close through the past few years (you can read more here), it’s cruel that we’ll only be left with two standing on Sunday evening. 

But that’s sport.

With some of the finest players from Dublin, Cork, Monaghan and Galway in action, they’re sure to be two cracking encounters. And we’ve picked two from each club — and mentioned many more throughout — for you to keep an eye on.

 1. Ciara O’Sullivan (Mourneabbey)

The Cork captain’s leadership is invaluable to this Mourneabbey side. A key player for her county, she brings that expertise to the club scene and pretty much every piece of play goes through the 2018 Players’ Player of the Year nominee. 

O’Sullivan and Mourneabbey fell short again last year.

Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

While Bríd O’Sullivan — no relation — is the Clyda side’s skipper, her namesake’s experience from down through the years on the inter-county scene comes as a huge asset. With a deadly instinct to attack and an eye for goal too, she’ll cause problems for Kilkerrin-Clonberne if she’s let play.

Backed up accordingly by her younger sister and fellow scoring star Doireann, as well as several other really talented forwards, Ciara will have a huge say if the five in-a-row Cork and Munster champions are to reach a fourth final in five years.

2. Sinead Goldrick (Foxrock-Cabinteely)

Evergreen Goldrick has been a huge driving force for Dublin through the years, hitting her prime in their back-to-back All-Ireland victories in 2017 and 2018. A total footballer, Goldrick is a rock-solid defender; nothing short of a workhorse and a real harrier in the tackle.

Sinead Goldrick has starred for Dublin and Fox-Cab for years now.

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Her athleticism and speed is another huge factor of her game and there’s no doubt about it, she loves getting forward. A huge ambassador for ladies football, Goldrick chipped in with a lovely point in the latter stages of September’s Croke Park showdown, and does so more often than not with Fox-Cab.

Her link-up with fellow Dublin star Amy Connolly in the forward line is a notable one, and will play a huge part if the Southside outfit are to come out on top. Captain Amy Ring is another who should have a big say in attack on Sunday.

3. Cathriona McConnell (Donaghmoyne)

Cathriona McConnell will take a serious amount of watching if Fox-Cab are to stop the Monaghan kingpins’ bid for a third All-Ireland title in four years. In their last final appearance in 2016, she finished with 1-5 while her nine-point haul saw them come out on top in this year’s Ulster final.

McConnell’s scoring returns are always impressive.

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Her scoring exploits and trusty boot have been a central component of Donaghmoyne’s success over the years. A key player for Monaghan, ‘Teeny’ hasn’t featured of late, but her 100% commitment to the club cause has paid dividends.

Her strength and physicality plays in her favour too, winning ball and laying off to Donaghmoyne’s many young, fast runners including the Garland twins, Lauren and Amy.

4. Louise Ward (Kilkerrin-Clonberne)

A well-established name with the Galway seniors, Louise Ward skippers the Galway and Connacht champions from the 40. Her leadership and attacking prowess is a massive boost to the Tribeswomen, and was key as they knocked Carnacon out of the race for All-Ireland glory.

Her battle against the O’Sullivan sisters of Mourneabbey will be one to watch.

Captain Louise Ward celebrates with team -mates.

Source: Sportsfile.

Without her own sister Nicola, who’s injured at the minute, she’s flying the Ward flag solo. It’s always been Nicola and Louise, Louise and Nicola, leading the charge and bouncing off each other for club and county the whole way up.  

But Louise is sure to do a good job, as per, on her own come Sunday.

5. Eimear Meaney (Mourneabbey)

In a pack of extremely hard-working and tenacious defenders, Eimear Meaney is one that really takes control and leads by example. Still only 21, the UCC student has been making waves on the club, county and college scene over the past few years.

Meaney has been making waves of late.

Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Rightfully rewarded with a 2018 All-Star nomination for her contribution to Ephie Fitzgerald’s Cork side’s year, she’s made the transition back to her roots at club level seamlessly.

Fellow Cork defender Maire O’Callaghan, who made a real breakthrough this year, and rising star Aisling O’Sullivan will also bring inspiration to the side.

6. Sharon Courtney (Donaghmoyne)

Another player with oceans of inter-county experience, Courtney is a massive leader on this Donaghmoyne team. Herself and the likes of her sister Cora and goalkeeper Linda Martin have been through it all time and time again, and form the backbone of the side.

Courtney breaks away against Kerry in 2016.

Source: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO

Deployed at centre-half back on the club scene, the three-time All-Star is always solid and a consistent performer in a competitive defensive unit.

She’ll have plenty to do on Sunday with some threatening Fox-Cab forwards coming at her in the form of Connolly and Ring to name just two, but Courtney’s experience at the top, extensive knowledge and sheer ability to read a game will surely counteract the danger. 

7. Olivia Divilly (Kilkerrin-Clonberne)

22-year-old Divilly is a graceful forward who likes to run at pace and directly at opposition defences. She’s always one to come away from a game with an impressive score or two, and is well able to kick frees from distance too.

Olivia Divilly has been a huge find for Galway.

Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Tall in stature, she’s risen through the Galway ranks and has become a well-known name  in ladies football circles of late.

Her sister and fellow Galway ace, Siobhan, is another to watch, and while there’s plenty of youth on the panel, the experience of Galway’s 2004 All-Ireland-winning captain Anette Clarke will be of huge importance as Kilkerrin-Clonberne eye the silverware.

8. Niamh Collins (Foxrock-Cabinteely)

Another star of both the Fox-Cab and Dublin shows, Niamh Collins is pivotal in defence.

She’s incredibly consistent and a huge addition to any team she plays on. In 2016, she played 180 minutes of All-Ireland finals; winning the O’Connor Cup with UCD before falling short later on in the year with both club and county.

Collins is another Fox-Cab player to keep a close eye on.

Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Collins, Goldrick, Connolly are three of six of Mick Bohan’s freshly-crowned All-Ireland champions, along with Hannah O’Neill, Emma McDonagh and Tarah O’Sullivan, that feature strongly. Their experience of the big day, along with the impressive crop of youth coming through, will benefit them as they hope to do enough to book another decider spot.

Their familiar surroundings at Bray Emmets will also help as they welcome familiar foes Donaghmoyne.

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