SOME All-Ireland victories are worth more than others.
There’s no shortage of medals in the Cork camogie camp, Gemma O’Connor and Aoife Murray leading the way with eight senior wins apiece since their first in 2002.
Rena Buckley is only one behind that duo, with 11 on the football front for that record-breaking haul of 18.
Eimear O’Sullivan has a growing collection herself; Sunday was her fifth time climbing the steps of the Hogan Stand.
Make no mistake though this was the best of the lot, courtesy of Gemma O’Connor and Julia White’s late points.
“The manner we won it made it the sweetest. The character we showed in the last five minutes, with Gemma’s point and then Julia’s to win it was unbelievable.
“The way the game was going the momentum was with Kilkenny and in other years we may have thrown in the towel. Julia had some guts to put that ball over the bar.”
O’Connor’s participation had been in doubt, while White had endured a torrid run of injuries across two seasons.
“I know what it’s like to not be starting and doing your own thing. I'd the cruciate a few years ago. The team almost forget about you in a way and they have to get on with it so you’ve to be disciplined yourself to be able to get back.
“Julia was so determined. The work she did on her own, I saw it, I’m delighted for her.”
O’Sullivan, one of eight kids, was surrounded by family and well-wishers last night at the Imperial. Her older sister Linda played for Cork too, while her brothers are involved with Ballinhassig’s premier intermediate hurlers who meet Kanturk in a semi-final on Saturday. The day after the Hassig’s senior B camogie team take on Valley Rovers.
“The reception is great and having all your family around you. Coming in here is the first time you see them properly and that’s always special.”
Sunday night at the Crowne Plaza was magical too, the pain of defeat to Kilkenny 12 months earlier when three in a row was on the line erased. It was O’Sullivan’s third time getting the better of the Cats in September, though she conceded the game hinged on a few small moments.
“There’s nothing between us, similar styles, but I think we got our tactics right. They counteracted us in the second half, keeping their midfielders wide to open up the game, but we had set ourselves up in the first half.
“Having Ashling Thompson so deep in the second half wasn’t really planned but again she was well able to do that role and won so much ball.
“Last year they had got a lead and we were chasing the game. We forced them into uncharacteristic mistakes and I think we were fitter this time.”
Cork needed a lot to go right to regain the O’Duffy Cup, especially as Kilkenny had beaten them in this year’s league final too. However, the dynamic midfielder, whose piercing runs down the flanks were a major asset on Sunday, said their only focus had been on championship.
“Up the league final our training was all about our touch, we weren’t doing match specific work and it was only in May we got ready.
“Our training was then game-based. We were match-orientated so that we knew what the pressure was like when it came to the big days. We were being tested at training.”
Paudie Murray and his backroom had the Rebels fine-tuned for the big stage.
“This year we were on the track preseason doing 200s and 400s, which we wouldn’t have done before. Kevin (Murray) looked after the hurling, but Martin O’Brien was the physical trainer, with Liam O’Reilly involved too. They were experienced and brought a different element. Liam has been there and done it with Rob Heffernan.”
Even with Gemma O’Connor available, Cork significantly rejigged their line-up, O’Sullivan wearing the five geansaí but hurling at midfield. She felt the energy and adaptability of the rookies was crucial to the approach.
“Paudie brought Chloe Sigerson, Niamh McCarthy and Libby Coppinger through the league, and there are very experienced senior B players who were involved, so we used that part of the season to bring something new.
“Libby is very similar to Briege. She has that similar style to Briege. She’s strong, athletic with a great work-rate and she played midfield all year but went back corner-back against Kilkenny. That’s something new in camogie, that versatility.”