By DECLAN ROONEY
With Cork and Dublin meeting again for the fourth TG4 All-Ireland Senior Final in five years, Cork manager Ephie Fitzgerald lays no weight on talk of a rivalry between the two counties.
But in the third year since he took charge from legendary Rebel boss Eamonn Ryan, Fitzgerald is hoping to dethrone Dublin as champions and add a second All-Ireland final win over them to his tally.
This time though Dublin are favourites to defend their title, but nevertheless the former Clare men’s coach says his team are ready to regain the Brendan Martin Cup, and emulate their 2016 final win over the same opposition.
“The Cork-Dublin rivalry is media talk, it's irrelevant to me. Whether Cork have beaten Dublin means nothing; this is a new game. I don't think past results in anyway play a part and an All-Ireland final takes on a life of its own. Sunday’s game is another game,” said Fitzgerald, whose side reached the final with victory over Donegal in the last four.
“We have Ciara O’Sullivan who has eight or nine All-Ireland medals and she is not thinking about anything else other than proper preparation and making sure she is right for the game.
“The Dublin girls are full of massive confidence from winning the league this year and winning the All-Ireland last year so I don't think the Cork Dublin thing is relevant at all.
“People think there is massive rivalry there and there is on the field but off the field the Dublin girls are absolutely lovely. There is absolutely no issues there at all.”
Other than long term injury concern Marie Ambrose, Cork have reported a clean bill of health, including both dual stars, Libby Coppinger and Hannah Looney, who won the Senior camogie All-Ireland final with Cork last Sunday.
“The important thing is that girls recover. We had no issue with the girls enjoying themselves and celebrating on Sunday but after that it was back down to the serious stuff and preparing for this Sunday,” said the manager.
“For Libby and Hannah the fact that Cork won it will give them a big boost and they were going to Sunday full of confidence. Hannah has been a big boost to us this year and it would fulfil a fantastic year for them they managed to pull off both.”
For the first time in years Cork enter an All-Ireland final as underdogs and Fitzgerald thinks it has dampened the level of expectation around the county.
“The shoe’s on the other for this year for the first time in a long time. Dublin are favourites and they have more experience than us. They have girls in their mid to late 20s which is very helpful on big occasions and their forward line is pretty much settled over the last number of years.
“Hopefully our new girls will cope with the pressures of All-Ireland final day and that's probably the only concern we have. We won't know that until the day but if training is anything to go by they are in good form and hopefully we will give a good account of ourselves.
“I think the two best teams in the country are in the final and to lend itself to a very fast, competitive game football.”