Cork eye the big prize again with Kilkenny on Leeside for semi-final

Cork eye the big prize again with Kilkenny on Leeside for semi-final

Cork’s Orla Cronin takes a free against Clare. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

IT looks like it was winning all round for Cavan GAA last weekend as their junior team qualified for the All-Ireland junior camogie championship final after beating Roscommon 2-16 to 1-6. 

They face Armagh who had a win over Tyrone, 2-10 to 3-4. The All-Ireland intermediate final pairing will be Antrim and Down. I’m sure those counties will be thrilled to win an All-Ireland title but it’s a bit of a sham in my view when five intermediate teams and five junior teams from around the country were prevented from partaking based on last-minute restrictions introduced by the association that eliminated second adult teams from competitions. 

It makes a mockery of winning those titles now. Galway, Cork, Dublin, Kilkenny and Tipperary all fielded second teams in the Intermediate championship while Offaly, Wexford, Waterford, Limerick and Clare featured in the premier junior competition.

The senior semi-finals will be live on RTÉ 2 on Saturday. I don’t think Cork will fear Kilkenny at all, I think they’ll enjoy the challenge and as previewed last night it’ll either be a cracking all attacking game or a crowded fight with low scoring and little separating the teams. 

Cork's Lauren Homan and Niamh O'Dea of Clare. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane
Cork's Lauren Homan and Niamh O'Dea of Clare. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

Let’s hope it’s the former. 

Former Kilkenny camogie player Áine Fahy says that Kilkenny have one of the strongest panels they’ve had in a long time. 

That will be tested. Especially without Katie Power, who broke her kneecap in October. I was surprised by that statement. 

Áine says the management team can’t wait for this game. 

“This is going to be a huge task for them, Brian (Dowling) is going to relish this, he really wants this more than anything, he wants to get these girls back to an All-Ireland final. 

"I think he’ll have the girls primed and ready for the semi-final, and the older girls, the likes of Anne Dalton, Denise Gaule, Collette Dormer, they will be ready and they will pull on the younger girls as well, and there’s a really strong panel, probably one of the strongest panels we’ve seen in a long time."

Katie Power has had a really tough year. It was while running in a straight line at training that she broke her kneecap and she was only back after having three finger operations where one of her fingers has been fused and is now immobile.

Áine Fahy reflected on the Cork and Kilkenny camogie rivalry. They have met in four all Ireland finals since 2014, where Kilkenny was victorious in just one of those encounters, in 2016.

Fahy believes this may add an edge to the game and make it one of the best games of the year.

“You know they’ve always been there or thereabouts in league finals and things like that as well. There is that bit of rivalry on the field but off it I feel like a lot of them are very close, they’d be all quite friendly with each other but you know when you step over those white lines on the day of the game it’s a completely different kettle of fish.

"This is going to be new territory for Kilkenny going down to play in Páirc Uí Chaoimh which I must say looks in great condition as well."

That’s the difference today isn’t it with a large majority of school leavers heading to college and making great friends with players from other counties, particularly while playing in the Ashbourne cup and shields. Back in the '80s and early '90s those going to college were far fewer and so that rivalry extended beyond the pitch for many. They could never see themselves friends with the opposition. 

Of course, when you get older you realise how silly that is but at the time they were arch enemies and that was it.

Brian Dowling, in his first year in charge of Kilkenny, after being Ann Downey’s number two in 2019, would love to beat Cork in the Páirc. He’ll know that the games he’s played which saw them top their group will count for nothing. 

The former Kilkenny hurler’s demand for a high work-rate without possession as a non-negotiable on the field of play could play a big part if Cork overdo their hand passing style. 

"I think any manager’s dream is to see your players getting turnovers, getting hooks, getting blocks. We really drilled it into them all year, looking at the statistics after the games, who’s making the scores, not just the people who are scoring. 

"It’s who’s getting in the hooks and the blocks, who's getting the turnovers that’s leading to the scores and that’s a huge thing for us," the Kilkenny manager said.

Aishling Moloney is back for Tipperary against the All-Ireland champions Galway at 2.15pm. She is such a top-class player but has only twenty minutes behind her of championship action due to being sent off in Tipp’s opening victory over Clare. 

What a midfield battle that will be with Moloney and possibly Ereena Fryday paired against Niamh Kilkenny and Aoife Donoghue, the instigators of Galway’s three goals last September to take just their third All Ireland senior title. 

Tipperary have a strong side, they’re confident and believe they’ll take this semi-final over champions Galway. 

With the year that’s in it stranger things have happened.

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