SATURDAY SE Systems Cork Senior Camogie Championship final: Inniscarra v Courcey Rovers, Castle Road, 3pm.
THE senior county championship final is one to eagerly look forward to.
Truly, it has the ingredients to be a belter. We have seasoned campaigners, Inniscarra, going for three in a row, facing first-time finalists Courcey Rovers.
While, typically, a meeting like this would represent a ‘pat on the back for Courceys’, with the outcome going Inniscarra’s way, this scenario has the hallmarks of going against the grain.
I believe Inniscarra will have their work cut out trying to retain their title.
Did many of us predict this final?
I don’t think so.
I have mentioned in the past two years the potential of Courceys as an up and coming side, but I wasn’t so sure they’d reach a final yet.
And without Joanne Casey and Aoife Kavanagh, did any of us feel Inniscarra would be where they are without those key players?
Very few I’d imagine.
So, while it’s a celebration for Courcey Rovers to be in their first final since making the senior ranks in 1999, Inniscarra, regardless of how the result goes, can also hold their heads very high and be proud.
But when you reach a final you want to win it and neither Inniscarra nor Courceys will accept those sentiments if the cup isn’t in their hands at 4.15pm tomorrow.
Reaching the final isn’t simply beginner’s luck for Courcey Rovers. They’ve put in a tremendous amount of effort over many years, to finally reach the senior decider for the first time.
Cast you mind back to 2012 when they ran Milford very close in the semi-final. Milford won 3-11 to 1-9 and it started their run of four county titles in a row.
But for a two-minute spell midway through the second half, which saw them score 2-1, this game was on the table for either side.
Milford had a right battle on their hands. Linda Collins, who was just 16 at the time, was already making headlines. Players such as Jacinta Crowley, Ashling Moloney, and Christine O’Neill are still wearing the red and white, as is stalwart player Sarah Hayes.
For those players and others, tomorrow is a momentous occasion. Last season was a breakthrough year when they won their first piece of senior silverware, the senior league trophy.
To some, the league may not mean a huge amount, but when a team is trying to get over a hump, when they’ve been knocking on the door for so long, silverware is massively important.
Undoubtedly that was the springboard for Rovers’ giant leap in 2018.
Courceys were founded in 1952, but they fell by the wayside before coming again in 1982. Operating at senior level for 19 years, Courceys have been on the winning path since 1992, claiming U14 and U16 leagues, and the U16 county title.
They won the U14 Féile in 1996, losing narrowly in the All-Ireland final. An U18 county title followed in 1996.
These victories formed the basis of how the club has come through the ranks. The Junior A Championship was added in 1997 with the senior B title in 1999, creating the first real stepping stone to a higher standard of play.
There are so many unsung heroes in Courcey Rovers who won’t be forgotten tomorrow.
You had Brendan Murphy, Liam Calvert, and Tommy Cahalane (RIP) back in the day. Diarmuid Corcoran, Shirley Moloney, and Brian Hayes knew the potential of the more recent squad and worked on building this team, before handing over the reins to the current management team of Kevin Hannon, Geraldine Collins, Gail Nolan and Joey Gallagher, along with trainer Michael Boland.
The aforementioned Sara Hayes and Rachel Moloney are two of the names synonymous with the club, having 10 All-Ireland senior medals between them.
You now have Linda Collins and Saoirse McCarthy making their own mark. And what about Ashling Moloney and the hugely exciting Fiona Keating?
This Courceys team is flush with talent and they had players on all Cork teams in 2018.
While much of the pre-match talk will focus on Courceys, Inniscarra will quietly work away behind the scenes confident in their ability to complete the three-in-a-row, and land their fourth title in all.
Certainly, they have the experience of pulling big games out of the fire. Who can forget the 4-10 to 2-13 thriller against Milford in CIT in 2016 with the game level six times and level with 10 minutes to go before Inniscarra pulled away.
Remember Mallow in 2018 when an Aileen Sheehan goal almost on full- time gave them a one-point victory.
They have tremendous battling qualities, something Courceys also displayed in abundance in their semi-final win over Milford last weekend.
Inniscarra don’t do panic and they fight to the bitter end. In fact, it was a Rena Buckley goal in the fourth minute of injury-time that gave them their first title back in 2010 at the expense of Imokilly after a replay.
So Inniscarra have those all-important qualities so crucial on big days and they’ll want this title as badly as they’ve wanted the others.
Will Rovers’ speed de-throne them? Like Milford, have Inniscarra lost a yard over the years?
We’ve spoken during the year about the loss of Joanne Casey and Aoife Kavanagh, but Niamh Dilworth is back to her best. Niamh McCarthy could get two or three goals on her day. Katie O’Mahony continues to shine. Rosie O’Mahony is rock solid, while Rebecca Sheehan has slotted in very well in a new defensive role.
Courceys have a very strong defence. Ciara Hayes and Ashling Moloney are playing stormers with their team-mates equally tenacious.
They’ve lethal forwards in Linda Collins and Fiona Keating.
Saoirse McCarthy? She only had her appendix removed two weeks ago. She’s been advised not to play. Will she sit on the bench?
The match-ups will be interesting.
Who has had the toughest route to the final?
You would have to say Courcey Rovers. Defeating St Catherine’s in their opening round was a tough assignment; 3-14 to 5-7. A demolition of Muskerry in round three, yes, but a quarter-final win over Killeagh and a titanic battle with Milford last weekend has left them nicely primed for Inniscarra.
The champions on the other hand, after a three-point opening victory over Cloughduv and a 10-point quarter-final victory over the same opponents, had facile victories over Sarsfields and Ballincollig in between.
Don’t be surprised if we have new champions.