Cork and Kilkenny are the two best teams in the country, by a distance, and that’s who you want to see in a final.
It’s a game to look forward too, not just for supporters, but for the teams themselves.
Catching up with Cork captain, Rena Buckley, after a lively training session in Castleroad last Tuesday, she rubber-stamped how the players were feeling.
“Yeah, we’re looking forward to it. I suppose we were satisfied that when we played Kilkenny a few weeks ago it was great to get a win away, but we’re very aware as well that they were missing a few players.
“I don’t think they were at full strength and I think they had a team holiday not too far back either. So, we know it’s a huge challenge for us and it’ll be great to see where we’re at and what to work on going forward.’’
It’s clear to see that Kilkenny have raised the bar since their All-Ireland victory.
“Ah definitely. The one thing, if you went through their team versus ours, they’ve a lot more medals from underage, but they were always missing that senior win and a win in the senior All-Ireland must have given them confidence.
“But at the same time, we’ve had experience of beating them as well so we shouldn’t have a whole pile to fear, but certainly it’s going to be a huge ask.”
Despite Cork beating the Cats in their home patch in early April, a new found physical confidence was evident in the Kilkenny team, a point Buckley agrees with.
“Absolutely. It brings them on hugely. I can’t remember how many players they used in the league campaign, but they used a very high number, so they’ll have fierce competition within their own squad to get into the team so anyone that gets a start the next day will be hoping to hold on to that jersey.”
While Kilkenny have added to their senior squad, so too have Cork. It’s been a while since they could call on impactful additions, but this season has seen a shift and it has created that extra buzz in the Cork camp.
Niamh McCarthy, Linda Collins, Jennifer Barry, Chloe Sigerson and the return of Julia White is a great boost.
‘‘Definitely,” said the Cork captain. “Compared to last year there is competition for places. Orla Cotter is back on Sunday from injury too, so it’s good that the management have a few headaches to pick the team. Last year that really wasn’t the case so yes, it’s a great place to be in. Knowing that there will be fresh legs to come in with 20 minutes to go, that’s something to look forward to,” added Buckley who is captaining the side for the second time in her career.
“I was captain in 2011. It was slightly different in that we were slow in getting a management team that year. We had a very talented bunch and jeez we could have gotten to the All-Ireland afterwards, but we didn’t.
“Things just weren’t as smooth maybe that year, so I’m very happy with how things are going so far. The main thing is that people are putting in a huge effort.
“Whether we’ll be good enough or not on the day, I don’t know, but that’s all you can ask for.”
Time becomes more precious as you get older with more demands on your time. Owner of Rena Buckley Chartered Physiotherapy Clinic in Macroom, and doing a Master in Sports Physio, Rena found it a little more difficult to get back to the field this year, purely because of the pressure for time.
“I’m working and studying so I’m caught for time. I go to Dublin once a week, every Friday. But I’m nearly finished with that. I just have three more trips to do so I can’t wait (to be finished). It’s a killer.”
That, of course, is the easy part, I put to her, the study time to be undertaken is immense.
“Yeah,” laughs Rena. “Friday is almost a lovely day compared to that. But I must say I’m really enjoying the training. I’m really enjoying the games. That level of enjoyment when I’m on the field is definitely the same as ever. It’s just getting to the field is the hard part.”
Now back in the thick of it she wouldn’t be anywhere else, though.
‘‘Yeah, I realise I’m a little bit behind. I missed a nice bit of training, but I’d be hoping in June I’ll have bridged that gap a small bit.”
Rena’s hope for Sunday is that the team just play to their potential. The disappointment last September was that they didn’t.
“No not at all. But I mean if you were to ask everyone that was involved, did we really do our best in the run-up to the final I don’t think we did.
“Kilkenny were much better on the day, you have to give it to them, hands down. And I think they’re an extremely talented side, but hopefully we’ll give them a rattle this year.
“Look we’ll see where we’re at come the weekend. I know there’s a national title at stake, a cup at stake, but everyone is going to have one eye on the championship as well.”
I’m working and studying so I’m caught for time. I go to Dublin once a week, but I’m nearly finished with that