Cork v Galway: Linda Mellerick on a potential camogie classic at Croker

New manager Matthew Twomey has blooded a host of new players across the league
Cork v Galway: Linda Mellerick on a potential camogie classic at Croker

Cork players line up in the wind and rain against Kilkenny. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

SATURDAY: League final: Cork v Galway, Croke Park, 7pm. Live on RTE 2. 

IF the meeting of Cork and Galway in the Littlewoods Division 1 League final in Croke Park tomorrow is even 70% as good in quality and drama as last September’s All-Ireland final between the two, then we’re in for a great hour’s entertainment.

What a game that was!

Unfortunately, Cork came out on the wrong side of a 1-15 to 1-12 result.

We thought we had it when Katrina Mackey billowed the net on 48 minutes to give Cork a three-point lead, but Galway finished in a blaze of glory.

It was a different Galway to previous teams which couldn’t see tight games out. Their mindset had changed. Galway had started to beat Cork in league and championship games in the two years previous.

Despite both side having qualified from their group in the 2020 championship when they met, Galway came out tops by three points.

In their league semi-final meeting in Nowlan Park in June 2021, three months before the championship final, Galway edged Cork again after extra-time, 1-19 to 1-17. Those defeats mattered, those victories mattered, depending on which side of the fence you sit.

Ashling Thompson of Cork reacts after her side's defeat in the All-Ireland final against Galway last year. Picture: Ben McShane/Sportsfile
Ashling Thompson of Cork reacts after her side's defeat in the All-Ireland final against Galway last year. Picture: Ben McShane/Sportsfile

Galway will obviously go into this final as favourites. Cork have lost a lot of experience in recent years and, as expected, it’s taking time to rebuild. Galway’s rebuilding process is only around the corner with some of their key players in their early thirties.

They’ve lost a few of their extended panel through retirement but their backbone is still intact.

Galway haven’t been hitting top form throughout the league but are on a high, with Sarsfields having recently won the All-Ireland senior club title and their players are now back full-time with the squad.

The McGrath sisters, Orlaith and Siobhan, are top-class forwards. Despite Galway presently having the upper hand at senior level Cork are on their heels, having defeated them two weeks ago in the Division 2 league and minor All-Ireland final on the same day.

Cork will line out minus Hannah Looney, Pamela Mackey, Orla Cronin, and Linda Collins from last year’s championship.

It’s hoped that Looney and Cronin will be back for the championship. Fiona Keating hasn’t started a league game since breaking a bone in her hand. Sorcha McCartan has joined the panel from Down and is a huge plus, but Cork have fitness tests for McCartan and Katrina Mackey ahead of tomorrow’s encounter.

McCartan hasn’t trained since the Kilkenny game four weeks ago due to an ankle injury and Mackey pulled her hamstring last week.

Manager Matthew Twomey is hopeful they’ll both make it. With the aforementioned absentees and injuries Cork’s manager said: “We’re down six from last year’s starting All-Ireland 15.

“From looking at Galway’s team that lined out against Tipperary in their league semi-final they’re full-on. We’re up against it because they’ve been our bogey side over the past couple of seasons.

“But if we get a response from the girls, we’ll be happy. 

A performance is what we’re looking for because we did want to blood new players throughout the league and I’d say on Saturday we’ll have four, maybe five starting in Croke Park for the first time.

“So that’s huge and we’re happy with that side of things."

Cork manager Matthew Twomey and Kilkenny manager Brian Dowling shake hands. Picture: INPHO/Jim Coughlan
Cork manager Matthew Twomey and Kilkenny manager Brian Dowling shake hands. Picture: INPHO/Jim Coughlan

The team will travel by bus due to the late throw-in time, 7pm, and it’s live on RTÉ. It’s a work in progress regardless of tomorrow’s result.

“When we started the year we wanted to be competitive in the league and get as many players onto the pitch as we possibly could.

“I think we’ve given nine players their debut and we’re in a final so we’re in bonus territory now. I don’t think it’s going to define our season if we win or lose. If we win, we’re not going to get carried away thinking we’re going to win the All-Ireland and if we get beaten, we’re not going to start crying into our jerseys.”

Twomey has been particularly impressed with a few players to date.

Sorcha McCartan obviously is a huge find. Izzy O’Regan and Meabh Murphy have impressed to be fair to them.

“There are some girls on the panel who are very close to starting, they’ve come on leaps and bounds. Their fitness levels have gone up and confidence is a huge thing as well.”

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