Linda Mellerick: Minor success a major boost for camogie in Cork

Rebels beat Galway last week in the All-Ireland final, having dug out one-point wins in the previous two outings
Linda Mellerick: Minor success a major boost for camogie in Cork

Cork players celebrate after the win over Galway last weekend. Picture: INPHO/Tommy Grealy

IT was a great weekend on the Cork camogie front, winning the All-Ireland minor title for the third time in four years and advancing to the Division 2 senior league semi-final.

Both victories were at the expense of Galway and considering that the Tribe are the number one senior team in the country, it’s good to be creating a bit of nervousness west of the island that the Rebels are on their heels with continuous talent coming through.

The minor achievement was tremendous and our congratulations to Jerry Wallace, Michael Boland, and the entire backroom team and panel. This is Cork’s third title in four ‘playing years’, the 2020 competition not completed as Cork went in pursuit of three in a row.

Kilkenny defeated Cork in last year’s final, ending the hat-trick dream, but the cup wasn’t missing from Leeside for too long when it was presented to Sarsfields’ Orlaith Mullins in Semple Stadium.

Cork hadn’t won the All-Ireland minor title since the age moved from U16 to U18 in 2006. Enter Jerry Wallace in 2018 and they’ve reached every final since, winning three from four. That’s some record.

Cork players and management celebrate after the All-Ireland minor win over Galway. Picture: INPHO/Tommy Grealy
Cork players and management celebrate after the All-Ireland minor win over Galway. Picture: INPHO/Tommy Grealy

I thoroughly enjoyed the game. We witnessed two teams with tremendous hooking, blocking, and work-rate. It took Cork a while to settle, Orlaith Cahalane’s 21st-minute goal from a free turning the tide and Cork stayed in front from there.

Without seeing a replay, Galway keeper Laura Freeney seemingly brought down Cahalane’s free as it looked to be heading for the crossbar or slightly over and the ball fell into the net.

It’s that split-second decision isn’t it? Do you help the ball over the bar or attempt to pull it down?

For someone so young it’s a bit much to expect her to instantaneously know what to do. Cahalane was lovely to watch around the middle of the park.

I was also impressed with Mullins whose energy and unselfish play was excellent while Fiona Twohig also excited, a fine strong player who finished with three points. Ciara Morrison, Aoife Healy, and Cork’s entire full-back line, who were under immense pressure in the fourth quarter as Galway pushed for a goal, were excellent.

Cork’s Ciara Morrison with Ava Crowe of Galway in the minor final. Picture: INPHO/Tommy Grealy
Cork’s Ciara Morrison with Ava Crowe of Galway in the minor final. Picture: INPHO/Tommy Grealy

The maturity of this team is remarkable. They dug out two one-point wins over Waterford and Tipperary and when Galway scored four points on the trot to narrow the gap to just one point on 56 minutes, they didn’t panic, didn’t give away silly frees and replied with three points from Morrison, Cahalane, and Eimear Duignan.

A brilliant performance and win. Enjoy the celebrations!

INCENTIVE

While I was thrilled that the minor final was deservedly in Semple Stadium, I’m equally glad to see that if the Division 2 side can defeat Antrim this weekend, they’ll get to play their league final in Croke Park, a double-header with the senior final between Cork and Galway on April 9.

What an experience for these players personally. And what a valuable experience it will be if Cork reach an All-Ireland intermediate final. To already have the experience of Croke Park’s environment, dressing room, hurling hall, pitch, and sound come September would be worth its weight in goal.

It’s a huge incentive for the side. They’ll face Antrim, the 2021 All-Ireland champions, but they’ve a strong side with competition for places and are playing well.

Antrim will, incidentally, take part in the senior championship, having been promoted after their championship success. I can’t understand the ruling that allows the All-Ireland champions to remain in the intermediate league the following season.

Is it a rule or a county’s own decision? You’d imagine if you were playing senior championship then you’d want to play senior league and go in as prepared as you can be.

The announcement of a five-year sponsorship deal with Glen Dimplex is great news for the association after going through 2021 without a championship sponsor.

The money might free up some cash to hire more administrators as standards have fallen in recent times and they are desperately needed. While the groups for the championships have been drafted, no actual games have yet been drawn.

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