WHAT an incredible year its turning out to be for Cork Camogie.
With the All-Ireland minor title already in the bag Cork are in the U16A final tomorrow and the intermediate and senior finals next weekend. We could do a clean sweep and regardless of what happens over the coming eight days there are a number of people who can be very proud of the strong position Cork are in, namely the clubs, development officers, county board and all management teams.
Both the senior and intermediate squads will feel they didn’t reach great heights last weekend but they showed great character and dug out wins. That’s what semi-finals are all about. Rarely are they glamourous with so much at stake.
Both Waterford and Derry are to be given credit for their performances. Waterford really put it up to the seniors but Cork’s defence were excellent. What a full-back Libby Coppinger has turned into and I feel Meabh Cahalane doesn’t get the accolades she deserves outside of the camp.
Ashling Thompson swung the game Corks direction and Laura Treacy came out with a lot of ball, in the first half in particular, before Thompson took up the sweeper role.
The Cork intermediates looked extremely nervous. It was a big event for many of these girls, an All-Ireland semi-final in Nowlan Park where the crowd is very much by your side in the tight stadium. Even small things like the National Anthem amplifies the importance of the occasion.
Cork were so slow to start, Derry could have been out of sight on in the first quarter. Six wides by the seventh minute which would have put them six in front. There’s three-quarters of the game still to go but considering how the game played out it would have been difficult to clawback a strong Derry lead.
If the occasion was considered big last Saturday, you can magnify that to the power of 10 on what awaits management and players in Croke Park. Quite literally the day can take your breath away and if you’re not ready for it the hour on the pitch will fly by and it will be like an out-of-body experience, with you watching on.
For that reason, both management and players need to approach this final as calmly as possible, no razmataz, no over-the-top analysis. Be focused but relax, relax, relax.
Have a bit of fun in the build-up. Play cards the morning of the game. Avoid Snap: with the competitive streak in these girls, damage could be done!
Galway have a lot of experience of All Ireland final day from their management down. Cork need to address that by mentally working on being as composed as their opponents. Quick thinking and action is also needed. I think Cork were too slow in bringing in Katelyn Hickey on 43 minutes.
With half of Cork's forwards struggling I was looking for her to come in before half time. She made an immediate impact. Cork’s game-plan in the second half was unexpected. With a really strong wind behind them they held five defenders back to three Derry forwards.
At one point corner-forward Cliona O’Callaghan was on Cork’s own endline. What that did was give Derry the numerical advantage outfield and invited fierce pressure with runners coming through, picking off points. Taking short puck-outs and soloing out of the full-back line into trouble was also a concern but Cork were losing their long puck-outs.
Their puck-outs were turned over repeatedly. The outfield players need to give options. They were too static. A puck-out is effectively a free pass. You can’t gift it away.
What a finish by Joanne Casey with two first-rate frees to level and then win the game. She really is a top-class free-taker.
Her score to win it wasn’t an easy one, the angle tight, but she’s the type of player you want in those situations.
The last time Cork won the All-Ireland intermediate title was 2018. Cork won the double.
Eight years on from when Jenny O’Leary claimed the last of her four All Ireland senior medals, she is back in Croke Park as Jenny Curry, after shooting a goal and three points to help Armagh to a hard-fought junior semi-final win over Cavan.