Cork v Galway: Linda Mellerick on why All-Ireland glory awaits in Croke Park

Rebels can follow up on their victory over Kilkenny in today's decider at 4.15pm
Cork v Galway: Linda Mellerick on why All-Ireland glory awaits in Croke Park

Anna Cambridge Hutchinson with Cork senior camogie player Amy O'Connor at St Vincent's GAA Club recently. Picture: Howard Crowdy

IF the All-Ireland semi-final performances are anything to go by then Cork will win their 29th All Ireland senior camogie title today.

However, there is always one big game in Galway in a season. It hasn’t happened yet. Will it be on Sunday?

There was no comparison between the slick, efficient play in Cork-Kilkenny and what I felt was the scrappy play of Galway against Tipperary in the semi-finals.

Galway’s work of the ball in finding each other was regularly poor. Cork were certainly more economical with their possession.

Galway’s distribution, in what was at times giving their teammate no more than a 50/50 chance, in addition to the too often surprising surrender of possession with panic striking out of defence, left a lot to be desired. If that doesn’t drastically improve tomorrow then the result is only going one way.

I don’t think I should underplay the intensity with which Tipperary brought to that semi-final and they are a good team but that’s the intensity you would expect at Croke Park. It’s more with what Galway did with the ball when in control.

Cork’s third quarter may not have been to their management’s liking against Kilkenny but when you’re playing a team that is more or less on a par with you, of course it’s not all going to be perfect.

Off-the-ball antics are becoming more common in camogie and in particular, I’m referring to the pulling of jerseys. It’s an art done discreetly but I hope the umpires do their job and keep a watchful eye out, from both sides to be fair.

Amy O’Connor suffered significantly of that negative play in the semi-final, every time she went to make a burst, her jersey was pulled and the outcome not as effective as it could have been. This was right in front of the umpires and only once did she receive a free for the cynical play.

Orla Cronin lost her appeal against her semi-final red card on Tuesday night. I’m really sorry that this happened to her on a personal level. 

I’m watching Orla for years and there isn’t a dirty stroke in her. She was completely taken by surprise with her legs taken from under her and I think her response was more reactive than intent. 

She is a huge playmaker as well as a lethal scorer from distance and a massive loss to Cork.

Does Linda Collins automatically fill that slot (and she’s named to start now) or will Cliona Healy, Izzy O’Regan or Isobel Sheehan come into the fray and Linda held in reserve again for an impact? The thing is that you need to be there or thereabout in the closing stages if you want to finish with a flurry. You start your best team is my opinion and hope your bench also has impactful depth.

Cork captain Linda Collins with Watergrasshill U12 camogie team players at Glenville National School: Grace Moran, Mae Callnan, Hanna Murphy, Grace O'Callaghan, Hazel Collins, Isobel Dignam and Sarah Barry. Picture: Larry Cummins
Cork captain Linda Collins with Watergrasshill U12 camogie team players at Glenville National School: Grace Moran, Mae Callnan, Hanna Murphy, Grace O'Callaghan, Hazel Collins, Isobel Dignam and Sarah Barry. Picture: Larry Cummins

Galway’s bench is massively experienced. Competition for places at training must be intense. They’re on the road a long time but need that spring in their step. I think Galway peaked in their 2019 All Ireland victory. Their performances ever since haven’t quite matched that. They’ve beaten Cork twice since — in the 2020 group championship third round, 0-15 to 0-12 and in the league final just gone, 1-19 to 1-17 after extra time.

I wouldn’t read too much into the league result. Cork are showing more improvement in the intervening months than Galway. Carrie Dolan, their reliable free-taker, should return for the final, manager Cathal Murray saying that she just missed out recovery-wise for their semi. Galway’s conversion rate from placed balls wasn’t good against Tipp and Dolan will be needed.

Galway’s full-forward line of Siobhan and Orla McGrath and Ailish O’Reilly will attempt to take on Cork’s full back line at every opportunity. Cork proved more than capable of managing that against Kilkenny, particularly Libby Coppinger at full-back against Katie Power.

Croke Park is a happy hunting ground for Cork. They love playing there. To win their last three visits by a single point is testament to that.

Galway on the other hand have a fractured relationship with the stadium. It has been romantic and harmonious yet equally broken their hearts so many times.

Which personality will show up this time?

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