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Preview: Ladies NFL Division 1 semi-finals

Updated: Thursday, 24 Apr 2014 15:02 | Comments

Cork host neighbours Kerry in the last four
Cork host neighbours Kerry in the last four

Dublin manager Gregory McGonigle is hoping to steer the Sky Blues into a very first Tesco Homegrown Ladies National Football League Division 1 final next Sunday.

 Dublin, who were crowned Division 2 champoins in 2011, have never contested a top flight decider but that could change if the Jackies defeat McGonigle’s former charges Monaghan in next Sunday’s semi-final at Kingscourt Stars in Cavan.

And McGonigle, who guided Monaghan to TG4 All-Ireland final appearances in 2011 and 2013, believes that Dublin have made progress this year.

McGonigle said: “I think we are ahead of schedule – we have played seven games and haven’t lost.

 "We’ve brought in U21 players to top up the seniors and we have 42 players available to train most weeks.

"There’s a good blend of youth and experience and I’m happy enough that it’s a positive camp.

"Monaghan weren’t too far away from being the finished article, losing by a point in last year’s All-Ireland final, whereas I would have viewed Dublin as having more team play to get sorted out.

"As much as they were very good in the first half of last year’s quarter-final against Cork, there were things that I would have tried to improve with defending.

"But win or lose next Sunday, it doesn’t change our season that much.

"Ideally we would love to be in a final but getting to a semi-final gives us another game before the Kildare match in the Leinster championship on 22 June.

"In the two years when Monaghan reached the All-Ireland final when I was there, they didn’t contest a League final so I’m not getting too hung up on do or die.

"The girls are still doing gym sessions, fitting in club football and training flat out with the county. Our fitness levels are good for this time of year and I hope that we can maintain that.”

McGonigle is rating Sorcha Furlong at 50/50 to feature against Monaghan while Siobhán Woods will miss out after undergoing keyhole surgery on a gall bladder complaint.

Meanwhile, the second semi-final is a Munster derby between Cork and Kerry, with reigning League and All-Ireland champions Cork looking to avenge a one-point defeat against the Kingdom in the group stages.

The two sides are no strangers to each other and in last year’s Munster championship, Kerry won both meetings between the counties.

But Cork gained revenge with victory at Semple Stadium in the TG4 All-Ireland semi-final, before going on to collect the Brendan Martin Cup for the eighth time in nine seasons.

Kerry manager William O’Sullivan reflected: “It is what it is, a local derby and it could go either way.

“We’ve beaten Cork on a couple of occasions in the last year or so but we haven’t beatn them on the national stage.

“This is the national stage and if we beat them on Sunday, it will be a first for us in that regard.”

O’Sullivan is picking from a full deck for Sunday’s tie at Dromcollogher/Broadford in Limerick, with Caroline Kelly back from injury.

O’Sullivan’s squad, and his defence in particular, has also been strengthened by the return of Aisling Leonard and Aoife Lyons.

And the manager admits that Kerry would love to reach a first Division 1 final since 2008.

He explained: “We’re in three competitions and we’d like to win all three of them.

“We’re no different to any other team in that respect. To get to a semi-final is the first step and a final would be a great bonus. We’re certainly striving to get there but no more than Cork.”

O’Sullivan added: “The game in Dingle earlier this year was a typical local derby. Neither team played well and we were lucky enough to come out with a one-point win. We got the goal we didn’t get in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final but it could have gone either way.

“This is a different game, a different time of year with harder ground, not as sticky. And Cork are going to be a lot fitter than what they were. It’s anybody’s game.” 

TESCO Homegrown NFL Division 1 Semi-Finals

Dublin v Monaghan, Kingscourt Stars, 1pm

Cork v Kerry, Drumcollogher/Broadford, 2pm

TESCO Homegrown NFL Division 2 Semi-Finals

Galway v Meath, Moate, 2pm

Down v Westmeath, Kingscourt Stars, 5.30

TESCO Homegrown NFL Division 3 Semi-Finals

Leitrim v Waterford, Birr, 2pm

Armagh v Tipperary, St. Peregrine's, 2pm 

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