CORK captain Linda Collins will have a key role to play at Croke Park against Galway this Sunday.
The powerful full-forward came off the bench in the semi-final win over Kilkenny to shoot the crucial lead point but could start in the final, 4.15pm, live on RTÉ2, in the absence of the suspended Orla Cronin.
The 24-year-old teacher, currently working in Glenville National School where they held a Cork jersey day on Thursday, led her club Courcey Rovers to their first senior county in 2020.
With that cherished county medal in the back pocket, she can now help the Rebels to a first All-Ireland in three seasons.
“It was just unbelievable to win the senior county, to be finally up there with all the other great clubs who have won the title was something we will all cherish, playing side by side with all the girls you came up through the club with and have been playing with since school days was just so special.
“The win really created huge excitement in the whole club and to see what it meant to everybody was wonderful.”
Collins first came to prominence as a teen and graduated from the Cork U16 and minor ranks into the senior set-up under Paudie Murray. Her reaction time is superb and her movement in possession makes her a handful for any defender.
She also has an eye for goal and has plenty of All-Ireland final experience. Collins featured in minor, intermediate, and senior All-Irelands before, including replays at minor in 2013 and ‘14 and intermediate in 2017.
In 2018 she helped Cork to the senior title.
“That was a great year. I joined the senior panel in 2015 and that year it was a learning experience, taking it all in and getting up to the pace of senior.
“I just played intermediate in 2016 and then in 2017, I was on both panels; the seniors won, but unfortunately the intermediates lost out in a replay to Meath. Making the senior team in 2018 was great and to win was really great, especially after losing out in the intermediate final the year before.”
She began her camogie journey at Ballinaspittle National School.
“My sister Therese had played a bit of camogie and my brother Liam played with the club, but other than that we would have had no real background in the GAA. I really only went along with all the others, but I quickly realised just how enjoyable it was and I really love playing.”
Her mother Geraldine is now very much involved with Courceys, as the club vice-chair and delegate to the county board.
“I suppose she just got dragged along with us driving here and there, but she loves the involvement so it is great.”
Collins came on in the semi-final with 10 minutes to go, grabbing the winning point.
We all have a role to play and when I came on I suppose I just backed myself to do it, I was fresh coming into the game at that stage.
"When the opportunity came I just went for it, I was praying it wouldn’t drop short and thankfully it went over.”
She’s looking forward to facing Galway, as a starter or off the bench.
“Galway are a good side and I suppose, just like us, they are going in to win. We are ready for whatever they throw at us and hopefully it will go our way, really it is very much in our own hands if we want it badly enough we will have to produce the goods on Sunday.”