Compiled by Jackie Cahill
THE 2018 Lidl Ladies National Football League champions will be crowned over the May Bank Holiday weekend.
The action gets underway on Sunday, May 6, with a double-header at Parnell Park in Dublin.
At 2pm, Cavan and Tipperary battle it out for Division 2 glory and promotion to the top flight, and that’s followed by the mouth-watering prospect of another Dublin-Mayo collision, this time in the Division 1 final (4pm).
On Monday, May 7, attention focuses on St Brendan’s Park in Birr, for the finals in Divisions 3 and 4.
First up, at 2pm, Louth take on Wicklow in the Division 4 decider, and that’s followed by the clash of Meath and Wexford in the Division 3 showpiece (4pm).
All four games will be broadcast LIVE by TG4.
Lidl Ladies NFL Division 1 Final:
Dublin v Mayo; Parnell Park, 4pm – Sunday May 6 (B Rice, Down)
Another titanic collision between Mayo and Dublin lies in store at Parnell Park on Sunday.
When the counties met in last year’s TG4 All-Ireland senior decider, a record 46,286 attendance flocked through the Croke Park turnstiles, as the Sky Blues claimed the Brendan Martin Cup on a memorable afternoon.
They also met earlier in the season under the gaze of the eir Sport cameras at Elverys MacHale Park, and that was another terrific encounter.
Oonagh Whyte’s two goals proved crucial as Dublin came away with the points but Mayo still managed to seal a place in the top four, before accounting for holders Cork impressively at the semi-final stage.
Dublin, meanwhile, needed a late Nicole Owens wonder-goal to see off Galway by just a single point, and manager Mick Bohan will demand a much-improved performance.
Dublin, remarkably, have never won a Division 1 title and were beaten finalists in 2014 against Cork.
Mayo last captured top-flight honours in 2007 and their most recent final appearance was two years ago, when they lost a cracker to Cork.
Both teams have named strong sides for Sunday, with Dublin opting for 12 of the team that started at Croke Park last September.
Mayo have gone with ten of their 2017 All-Ireland final selection, with Rachel Kearns, who played in the half back line last year, between the sticks.
Despite missing experienced trio Cora Staunton, Martha Carter and Yvonne Byrne for the entire League campaign, Mayo have still managed to reach the final and that’s great credit to manager Peter Leahy, who has overseen a successful transitional period to date.
Dublin – C Trant; M Byrne, D Murphy, L Caffrey; S McGrath, S Goldrick, N Collins; L Magee, O Carey; N Owens, N McEvoy, L Davey; O Whyte, N Healy, S Aherne (capt.).
Mayo – R Kearns: E Lowther, S Tierney (capt.), S Ludden; M Corbett, D Caldwell, D Hughes; A Gilroy, C McManamon; F McHale, F Doherty, S Cafferky; N Kelly, S Rowe, G Kelly.
Lidl Ladies NFL Division 2 Final:
Cavan v Tipperary; Parnell Park, 2pm – Sunday May 6 (S McNulty, Wicklow)
The curtain-raiser at Parnell Park on Sunday has the potential to be a cracker in its own right.
Cavan, beaten Division 2 finalists after a replay against Westmeath last year, will aim to go one better by clinching promotion to the top flight.
Standing in their way are Tipperary, Division 3 winners last year and the reigning TG4 Munster and All-Ireland intermediate champions.
The Premier County will face Cork in a TG4 Munster senior semi-final in early June but they’re eyeing a second successive promotion before that.
When Cavan and Tipp met in the group stages of the League, Tipp ran out three-point winners but the Breffni girls were without some key players on the day.
Cavan needed victory over Tyrone in their final group outing to book a place in the semi-finals but after getting there, they saw off table-toppers Waterford to reach another final.
Tipp were pipped to top spot by the Déise and that saw them plunged into a semi-final with Armagh, who had been showing good form of their own.
With a big lead early in the second half of a classic Kinnegad encounter, Armagh looked well set for victory but Tipp rallied to clinch a memorable win.
Cavan and Tipp are both well-balanced outfits and with game-changers at the top end of the pitch.
Aisling Maguire and the Sheridans, Bronagh and Aisling, have the ability to hurt Tipp but the Premier County can boast offensive weapons of the calibre of Aishling Moloney, Gillian O’Brien and Aisling McCarthy.
Cavan – E Baugh; R Doonan, L Fitzpatrick, J Moore; S Greene (capt.), M Sheridan, N Byrd; C Dolan, D English; G McGlade, B Sheridan, A Sheridan; R O’Keeffe, A Maguire, C Finnegan.
Tipperary – L Fitzpatrick; L Dillon, M Curley, E Buckley; B Condon, S Lambert (capt.), C Condon; J Grant, G O’Brien; M Morrissey, A McCarthy, N Lonergan; O O’Dwyer, A Moloney, R Howard.
Lidl Ladies NFL Division 3 Final:
Meath v Wexford; St Brendan’s Park, Birr, 4pm – Monday May 7 (M Farrelly, Cavan)
In three of the four divisional finals (2/3/4), the beaten finalists from last year have a shot at redemption.
Wexford can consider themselves unfortunate to have lost out against Tipperary after a replay in the 2017 Division 3 final but are back for another crack.
Under the shrewd guidance of Anthony Masterson, the Slaneysiders claimed 18 from a possible 21 points in the group stages to finish on top of the pile.
In their recent semi-finals, Wexford got past Kildare as Meath demolished Down.
Meath are the highest scorers in the country across all four divisions and present a formidable challenge.
They beat Wexford in the 2017 TG4 Leinster intermediate final, before a late fightback against Tipperary in the All-Ireland semi-finals fell just short.
Captained by Niamh O’Sullivan, Meath have DCU’s Gourmet Food Parlour O’Connor Cup winner Vikki Wall in their ranks, a powerful forward who won an All-Ireland intermediate club medal with Dunboyne last year.
She’s a player to keep a close eye on but Wexford, skippered by long-serving goalkeeper Mary Rose Kelly, have a marquee star at midfield in former Kerry captain Bernie Breen.
Meath – M McGuirk; K Newe, S Peel, S Powderly; E Troy, S Ennis, N Gallogly; M O’Shaughnessy, K Byrne; M Thynne, A Cleary, V Wall; N O’Sullivan (capt.), S Grimes, F O’Neill.
Wexford – M.R. Kelly (capt.); S Murphy, M Byrne, S Harding Kenny; N Moore, N Mernagh, N Butler; R Murphy, B Breen; C Donnelly, F Rochford, K Kearney; C Foxe, A Murphy, C Murray.
Lidl Ladies NFL Division 4 Final:
Louth v Wicklow; St Brendan’s Park, Birr, 2pm – Monday May 7 (G Carmody, Mayo)
The first game on Monday in Birr is the Division 4 final clash between Louth and Wicklow, the first of two all-Leinster fixtures at the Offaly venue.
Wicklow breezed through the group stages, finishing with a maximum 21 points, but Louth were in second place on 15 when the dust settled.
Wicklow then went on to record a big semi-final victory over Antrim, as Louth saw off Limerick.
When the teams met in the group phase, just five points separated them, Wicklow running out 0-12 to 0-7 winners.
That suggests another close encounter lies in store as a Louth side captained by Paula Murray aim to inflict more final heartbreak on Wicklow, who lost out to Longford in 2017.
Wicklow will hope that it’s Sarah Hogan lifting silverware at the end of the game and, like Louth, their team is nicely-balanced with a blend of youth and experience.
Like the games across the other three divisions, this is one that could go right down to the wire before the champions are crowned.
Louth – U Pearson; E Singleton, R Kane, S McLoughlin; C Nolan, D Osborne, B McGrane; S Woods, R Carr; P Murray (capt.), S Byrne, A Russell; L Boyle, K Flood, M McArdle.
Wicklow – K Connors; E Mulhall, S.J. Winder, L Fusciardi; A Conroy, S Hogan (capt.), L Ahern; N McGettigan, S Miley; M Deeney, J Kinch, A Murphy; L Hogan, M Kealy, C Fox.