The Linda Mellerick column: Tough draw for Cork as Galway are the team to beat

The Linda Mellerick column: Tough draw for Cork as Galway are the team to beat
Tara Kenny of Galway celebrates a second half score against Cork in last year's All-Ireland semi-final. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

CORK versus Galway is certainly the most attractive pairing that came of last Thursday evenings live camogie championship draws on the association's Facebook page.

With eleven counties partaking in the senior championship there are two groups of four and one with three teams. Galway and Kilkenny, last year’s finalists were seeded into groups 1 and 2 while Cork and Tipperary, last year’s semi-finalists, were separately put into a bowl where first drawn went into group 3 and the remaining team joined, as it turned out, Galway in group 1.

While Tipperary were possibly thrilled to be selected first and head to the two-game round three group with Clare and Dublin, I think Cork are far better placed to be where they are. They are almost guaranteed a quarter-final spot even if they drop points to Galway and the tougher the games in your group the more they’ll stand to you. 

If Tipperary win their two games they’re straight through to a semi-final. Cork have three games against Galway, Offaly and Wexford. They’ve an extra game and if they lose to Galway they’ll have a quarter-final to also play – far better preparations in my view for a semi-final.

Liberty Insurance Senior Camogie Championship: 

Group 1: Galway, Cork, Offaly, Wexford.

Group 2: Kilkenny, Limerick, Waterford, Westmeath. Group 3: Tipperary, Clare, Dublin.

First placed from groups 1 and 2 will head straight for the semi-final. First placed in group 3 go into a quarter-final with second-placed in groups 1, 2 and 3.

Cork have a tough group in the Intermediate championship. Thirteen counties take part, three groups of 3 and one group of 4 is the makeup. Cork lie in group 2 with Meath, who have stepped back down from the senior grade, and Kerry, last year’s junior premier champions.

Liberty Insurance Intermediate Camogie ChampionshipL

Group 1: Galway, Dublin, Kildare, Laois. Group 2: Meath, Kerry, Cork. Group 3: Down, Derry, Kilkenny. Group 4: Tipperary, Antrim, Carlow.

No dates or venues have yet been given for the championships due to start on October 17.

Cork will feel they have amends to make after their one-point defeat to Galway in last year’s senior championship semi-final. It’s the worst kind of defeat, one point, because you beat yourself up afterwards thinking about every ball that you could have won to get that one-point leveller, two to win it. To then see your victors, go on and win the All-Ireland is such emphatic style I’m sure hurt Cork.

Cork were flat in the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick that day. Galway players wore their heart on their sleeves. That was the difference. And it's not an unexpected occurrence when a three in a row chasing side are caught by a team willing to put their bodies on the line. 

That’s not taking away from Galway. They thoroughly deserved their win. Cork’s slow passing game out of defence caught them where they were turned over on many an occasion.

Galway came to Limerick with a brilliant intensity. They had done that in the past but always lost their way in the final quarter. This time, when Cork went three points ahead it was a different Galway side this time around. Instead of dropping their heads they picked off some lovely long-distance points and saw the game out, holding Cork to just four points in the second half.

Cork's Pamala Mackey and Nimah Hanniffy of Galway battling it out last season. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Cork's Pamala Mackey and Nimah Hanniffy of Galway battling it out last season. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

In my opinion, Galway upped it again for the final, where Kilkenny had to be favourites, playing in their fourth final, six in seven seasons. They blitzed the Cats, 3-14 to 0-17.

Does this make Galway the favourites for 2020? It’s been a strange year so how it has affected teams time will tell. But in normal times you would expect that Galway have improved massively since they took to the field at 7.15pm to play Cork last August in that semi-final. 

The monkey is off their back. They have confidence now and if they don’t mess it up, like so many Galway teams of the past, they could realistically win back-to-back titles.

In 2013 when Galway last won the All-Ireland I personally felt they got a handy one if there is such a thing I know. I didn’t expect them to be close in 2014 and they weren’t. 

But this team is different. What beating Cork and Kilkenny has done for their confidence on the way to becoming champions last September is immeasurable.

Let’s take it back to 1999 when Cork hammered Tipperary in the league final by over thirty points. We lost the All-Ireland semi-final to Kilkenny where we hot favourites, again going for three in a row. Tipperary came through on the other side and with Cork out of the way, beat Kilkenny in the final by a point and became a different team almost overnight. 

They went on to win five All-Ireland titles in six years, beating Cork on a number of occasions in the process. I often wonder if we hadn’t fallen to Kilkenny what would have happened? If we reached the final and beat Tipp would they have dominated so much afterwards? 

It doesn’t matter, they won it and became an almost invincible force afterwards. Will history repeat itself with Galway? One thing is for sure, it certainly has made this year’s championship all the more exciting.

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