Linda Mellerick: Cork camogie leaders must stand up to guide young players

Rebels take encouragement from a lively league semi-final loss to Galway, but key areas must improve to challenge for the All-Ireland
Linda Mellerick: Cork camogie leaders must stand up to guide young players

Cork's Cliona Healy fires a shot against Galway last weekend. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

CORK bowed out of this year’s national league last Sunday but where are the team ahead of championship, which throws in on July 17? 

Twelve teams, three groups of four. Of the group winners, two will go into semis and one to the quarter-finals along with the group runners-up.

Cork have drawn Waterford, Dublin and Down. Not the greatest of groups but in reality, outside of the top four (Tipperary now included after last Sunday’s display), there is no serious championship challenge from the other counties. Galway and Kilkenny are again placed in the same group with Westmeath and Clare and all that’s to be determined there is who will finish first or second between them. 

There’s always one group where it’s all to play for and in this Group 1, you have Tipperary, Wexford, Limerick, and Offaly. You’d imagine Tipp and Limerick to reach the knockout stages, with Tipp favourites to top.

My mindset hasn’t changed too much from two weeks ago where I said I was impressed with Cork to date in the league. Granted they had played poor teams and it was always going to be when they met Kilkenny or Galway that a true picture of where they stand became apparent. 

I’m glad they met Galway when they did and not Kilkenny last Sunday. I thought Kilkenny were very poor and how they beat Tipp on the day is remarkable. But you have to credit Denise Gaule and her character in particular for doing so. 

IDEAL TEST

Cork could well have got an inflated opinion had they met Kilkenny in the semi-final. As it was, they met a really tough Galway side and Cork’s newcomers will certainly have felt the physical step up.

Cork manager Paudie Murray. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Cork manager Paudie Murray. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Cork’s full-back line of Ellen Murphy, Libby Coppinger and Meabh Cahalane looks like a combination that could work, however plenty more needs to be done.

Orla McGrath’s loss through injury in the 11th minute was a blow to Galway. Their forwards played deep, particularly Aoife O’Donoghue, and that suited Cork. 

Once O’Donoghue moved to the inside line in extra time she swung the game. Granted, Cork would have been tiring at that point, but I did say last week that the real test will only come if the opposition play an inside line and directly challenge Cork’s defence.

Hannah Looney played a full football game against Donegal the day before and she must have been shattered. Libby Coppinger and Meabh played 30 minutes and the journey and mental preparation also take their toll. But that’s the current status with dual players.

Ashling Thompson is working very hard in the middle of the park. Sometimes that hard work doesn’t manifest itself as well as it can. 

Ashling can create and score inspirational points from distance both left or right. 

She is falling between an attacking and defensive midfield role, and I feel her role could be more specific. Is Ashling to defend and Katrina Mackey to go forward or is it left to the run of the game?

It’s a long time since Cork has had goalscorers like Irene O’Keeffe, Fiona O’Driscoll and Lynn Dunlea. Amy O’Connor has filled the space, scoring brilliant goals in almost every game now. We need more in the mould of Amy, particularly when our scoring boots aren’t on further out the field. 

BEST OPTION?

I’m not convinced Cork are getting the best from Chloe Sigerson at wing-forward. She was consistently outstanding at wing-back. It reminds me of Waterford’s Austin Gleeson who never had a defined position, and it nullified his quality at times.

I speak a lot about leadership. It’s a key component in the makeup of a player. 

Laura Hayes has for me become a massive part of this Cork team. She is like a seasoned campaigner despite only being a regular since 2020. She is leading and we need more of that circulating. 

We have All-Ireland medal winners and All-Stars in the team and that needs to be evident. Gemma O’Connor is gone and her presence on the field, training ground and in the dressing room needs to be replaced.

Cork’s substitutes did well when they were introduced and that is encouraging for management. Saoirse McCarthy took up wing-back in place of Hannah Looney, in a completely new position for her. From a defender to wing-forward and a forward to wing-back, maybe sometimes it works.

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