This time the final heartache is Cork’s

This time the final heartache is Cork’s

Ashling Thompson of Cork reacts after her side's defeat in the All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship Final match between Cork and Galway at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile

IN his RTÉ TV interview after their semi-final win against Kilkenny, Cork camogie manager Paudie Murray immediately initiated the mind games with Galway before Sunday’s final.

"We cling to things,” said Murray. 

“This place (Croke Park) has been really good for this team. We lose very few games here. That’s probably not so much the case with Galway - they've lost two finals here (league and All-Ireland in the last nine months). 

"It’s going to be very difficult, but you cling to little things like that.” 

Despite having a good recent record against Cork coming into Sunday’s match, especially over the three previous seasons, Murray and Cork wanted to maintain a pattern against Galway in All-Ireland finals that Galway had repeatedly struggled to break.

After the county finally made the senior breakthrough in 1996, having lost nine finals before that maiden win, the chains around Galway looked set to be cast away. But they never really were.

Galway won All-Irelands in 2013 and 2019 but they had lost seven finals since winning their first 25 years earlier, four of which had been at the hands of Cork. Moreover, Galway had also lost a couple of heart-breaking semi-finals to Cork, especially in 2012 and 2017.

Galway had a hang-up with Cork for decades, but something had to give and eventually it did. Cork went into the 2019 All-Ireland semi-final as favourites. 

They were going for three in-a-row and a fifth title in six seasons when Galway nudged past them by one point.

Galway's Ailish O'Reilly, Aoife Donohue and Niamh Hanniffy celebrate at the final whistle
Galway's Ailish O'Reilly, Aoife Donohue and Niamh Hanniffy celebrate at the final whistle

Galway secured their third All-Ireland title a month later against Kilkenny. They lost another final, this time to Kilkenny, last December, but Galway beat Cork in a key group game along the way. 

When the sides met in the league semi-final back in June, Galway won after extra-time.

The next step though, was to beat Cork in a final, something Galway hadn’t managed in 25 years. 

And they finally did, edging Cork in a classic on Sunday.

It was another excellent showcase for camogie, another nail-biting final; it was the fourth final in the last five seasons to be decided by just one score.

Cork will be disappointed that they weren’t more clinical when they needed to be, especially in the last quarter. 

It was Galway’s day but it was all the sweeter again – not just because they beat Cork – but because winning a second title in three years granted Galway a status they have craved for decades. For sure, they have now really arrived as a serious force.

Apart from Wexford’s glorious renaissance between 2007-’12, the last three decades have largely belonged to Cork, who had won 14 titles in 30 years. 

Yet most of the last ten years have been about Galway and Kilkenny’s epic battle with Cork to try and break that stranglehold.

Similar to Cork’s narrow win against Kilkenny in the semi-final two weeks ago, Sunday’s game again showed how little has been between the top three.

Since 2013, all three have either been semi-finalists, finalists or winners. 

This was also the fourth successive year that they were joined in the last four by Tipperary.

Tipp have at least closed the gap on the top three, but that pursuit has been much harder for the chasing pack. 

They have brought the standard to a new level, especially when the standard looked far more even at the outset of the last decade.

In 2012, Wexford were champions again; Dublin beat Kilkenny in a playoff before narrowly losing an All-Ireland quarter-final to Offaly; Cork scraped past Clare in a quarter-final.

The big three have taken over ever since and, while new teams have emerged, none have made the breakthrough. 

Despite camogie’s constant desire for expansionism, constantly increasing the number of groups, it has been a challenge for those outside the top four to even win matches at senior level.

In the last eight seasons, Clare, Wexford, Offaly, Waterford, Limerick, Dublin, Meath, Derry and Westmeath have played a combined total of 207 championship matches, winning just 67 – a win rate of 32%.

And most of those wins were secured against each other.

Cork players, from left, Saoirse McCarthy, Linda Collins and Laura Hayes of Cork after their defeat in the All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship Final match between Cork and Galway at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile
Cork players, from left, Saoirse McCarthy, Linda Collins and Laura Hayes of Cork after their defeat in the All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship Final match between Cork and Galway at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile

Waterford have gone closest to breaking into the top four but their defeat to Tipp in the last six in August was their fourth successive All-Ireland quarter-final loss.

Continuity is a constant issue across the board. 

For managers outside the top four, it is a constant struggle to get players to return each year, something the big counties never have to worry about. 

Waterford haven’t had a huge player turnover, but they’ve had three different managements in the last four years.

More teams have been more competitive at underage, but the big four are still dominating the minor competition. 

Since the All-Ireland minor championship began in 2006, Limerick in 2014 are the only team outside the top four to have won an All-Ireland. 

Clare contested five finals, but no other county outside Clare and Limerick have contested a final in the last 15 years.

This year’s minor championship ran along similar lines. Dublin ran Cork to one point in the semi-final, while Kilkenny edged past Galway after extra-time before beating Cork in the final.

That denied Cork a third successive All-Ireland minor title (there was no competition last year), but the conveyor belt remains as strong as ever in the county.

Cork had five All-Ireland debutantes on Sunday. 

Cork manager Paudie Murray before the All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship Final match between Cork and Galway at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Cork manager Paudie Murray before the All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship Final match between Cork and Galway at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Cork will be back and, while Tipp are really improving, Cork already know that Galway and Kilkenny are the teams they need to overcome if they are to return to the top.

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more