CORK camogie ace Amy O’Connor was understandably thrilled with the news that team manager Paudie Murray will be returning for a ninth season.
In the wake of their one-point defeat to eventual champions Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final last August, there was speculation that Murray could vacate his role.
Having failed to reach an O’Duffy Cup decider for the first time since 2013, O’Connor admits Cork could be entering into “a transformation phase”. However, she also insists that Murray’s continued presence within the group gives them the best possible chance.
“It’s difficult to come in from the outside and get to know a group of players. Paudie has been there, he know us better than anyone and our camogie has come on so much because of Paudie,” O’Connor stressed.
“He deserves huge credit for that. I think he raised the standard of the game. Obviously as players we’re delighted to have him back, because we do believe that he is the man to try and take Cork camogie back to the top. We don’t know how long it’s going to take. We’re going to go through a bit of a transformation, but we’ll see how it goes.”
A familiar face will be missing from the backroom team in 2020, though, as Murray’s brother Kevin has left the set-up to focus on his PhD studies. O’Connor is quick to highlight how the former Cloughduv and St Finbarr’s attacker helped to improve her game, but is nevertheless looking forward to working with new coaches in Liam Cronin and Eoin Galvin.
“Kevin is a huge loss. Kevin has a unique style of coaching. I love the way he coaches. It suits me because Kevin was a forward himself. He’s attacking and as a forward we love that. Our defenders in training probably don’t!
“We’ve gotten in some management now, Liam Cronin from Clare and Eoin Galvin from Ballincollig. We’re really excited to get going with them and see what they have to offer.”
O’Connor was speaking in Croke Park at the launch of the latest Camogie All-Star Tour, which takes place in New York from November 21-26.
While the St Vincent’s star is the county’s sole representative on this year’s selection, eight Rebels will feature on the 2018 team.
“I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve never been to New York. I was on the last tour to Madrid, but I think by going it takes the whole thing to another level. New York being the big city that it is. It’s very exciting and it’s a very exciting time for camogie.
“I went the last time and there was a good few Cork girls and a good few double-ups. They’d gotten them both years, from different counties as well. It was great to be able to go, but it’s a bit better again this time.”
Nevertheless, as pleasing as this individual prize may be, it can’t make up for the crushing disappointment of Cork relinquishing their All-Ireland crown.
“I always say, if you’re from Cork and you don’t win, it’s not good enough. Avery disappointing year because of that. I suppose by winning an All Star, it was a huge achievement for my club and it was brilliant for the club. But it doesn’t make it up either for losing with Cork in the semi-final.
“That’s your main focus at the start of the year, to win an All-Ireland. You don’t go out to win an All-Star. You kind of set your goal at the start of the year, you want to be in an All-Ireland on the second Sunday in September.”
Given it was the first time since she joined the panel that Cork didn’t played a part in an All-Ireland senior showpiece, O’Connor was left with a strange feeling watching Galway and Kilkenny battle for national supremacy on September 8.
The open nature of their contest was a clear departure from the defence-orientated finals of previous seasons with a first-half goal blitz ultimately propelling the Tribeswomen towards a third O’Duffy Cup success.
O’Connor experienced mixed emotions as the action unfolded, but is confident her side can return to this stage sooner rather than later.
”The months of August and September were very strange for me and I’m sure an awful lot more of the Cork girls. It was great to watch [the final]. It was an open game, which I was surprised to see in a way. It was a breath of fresh air really to see it so open. Obviously it broke my heart a little bit to not be in it. Hopefully we’ll get back there soon,” O’Connor added.