Mackey determined to make the most of every trip to Croke Park with Cork

Mackey determined to make the most of every trip to Croke Park with Cork
Cork's Pamela Mackey and Ailish O'Reilly of Galway. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

ON THE camogie panel since 2009 but now an experienced and established player, Pamela Mackey is relishing the opportunity of playing in Croke Park again tomorrow.

After last year’s disappointment against Kilkenny, reaching another final has been the main focus since January.

“These days don’t come around too often so I think you have to enjoy the experience. You never know this could be your last game in Croke Park so you just have to relish that opportunity.”

Looking back on their semi-final clash with Galway, Mackey believes the team learned a lot but must up their performance against an excellent Kilkenny side.

“Galway were such a great team so I don’t think you can underestimate the challenge they posed. We were up by eight points so they were obviously going to throw the kitchen sink at us in the second half.

“I think the main thing is we kept our heads and we defended superbly in those dying minutes so that’s a massive positive. We probably lost our shape in the second half. I think that is key, keeping our shape and structure. Not losing sight of the gameplan. We learned a lot from that game so that can only help us on Sunday.”

A huge task lies ahead for the chemistry student and her team, however, Mackey is confident that her side are ready for the challenge that lies ahead.

“Kilkenny are obviously a fantastic team. All-Ireland, League and Leinster champions, they are a team on top form. They have some really outstanding players with the likes of Ann Dalton, Denise Gaule and Katie Power.

“They have strength and skill all over the pitch so it’s going to be a huge challenge. They have some really dangerous forwards who are quick and goal scorers. I think our defence is key, we will have to stick to our gameplan to nullify the threat of their forwards.”

Like all team sports, a mix of youth and experience is key to success and Mackey believes this is the case for the squad.

“We have a small panel this year which I feel has worked well. Every team needs a mix of older and younger players. The older players bring that experience from previous finals but the youth bring a no-fear attitude which is great. They are not afraid to express themselves and challenge some of the older players which definitely drives you on as a player.

“Different players have shone in every game this year for us. Everyone is really enjoying playing this year so I think that has helped and allowed players to express themselves more which has suited a lot of the younger players from 2014 and 2015.”

Having broken her leg before the league final, Mackey was out of the game for almost three months, but she’s now fitter and hungrier than ever.

“I broke my leg before the league final so unfortunately, I missed the Munster championship and first two championship matches. At the moment I’m really enjoying playing. I feel great and I’m probably the fittest I’ve ever been.

“So far, I think it’s been a great year. We put the disappointments of the league and Munster finals behind us and moved on.

“We knew there was bigger and better things ahead. Each game has presented us with new challenges and I think we overcame them very well as a team. What we worked on in training has translated on the playing field which is a big positive.”

Sunday is another huge day for the Mackey household with both Pamela and twin sister Katrina lining out for the side and the desire to win the game will have a huge bearing on the result states Mackey.

“All-Ireland finals can be won or lost by the puck of a ball. Not everything will go right for us as players on the day. Mistakes will be made but we have to keep our heads and keep working until the final whistle and then I think we are in with a great chance.

“The difference in skill level and athleticism is minimal at inter-county level. At the end of the day, you have to really want it, want it badly enough and if everyone believes that I think we can win. My family are very proud of me and my sister particularly my mother.

“She was the person who first brought us down to the street leagues in Douglas so it’s a very proud day for her to see us playing in Croke Park.”

Let’s hope it will be a memorable one.

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