AHEAD of her seventh appearance in an O’Duffy Cup decider next Sunday, Ashling Thompson has insisted she is more motivated than ever to do what is best for Cork camogie.
Having won four All-Ireland senior titles under the guidance of Paudie Murray, all of them coming during a five-year spell from 2014 to 2018, the Milford midfielder is now aiming to do likewise in Matthew Twomey’s debut campaign as Rebel boss.
Murray’s decade-long tenure ended in a three-point defeat to Galway in the 2021 showpiece, but it is their arch rivals Kilkenny who stand between Cork and national glory at Croke Park on Sunday.
I’m probably more motivated than I’ve been any other year.
"I think it just builds as you grow. A lot of people probably think that you get sick of it, but I think you actually get more hungry as the years go on. We’ll be throwing everything at this final to get over the line,” Thompson said at last week’s All-Ireland championship finals launch in Dublin.
At 32, Thompson is one of the most experienced members of the Cork set-up. The old adage of ‘age is just a number’ is very much in vogue at the moment, however, with elder statesmen like Paul Conroy, Richie Hogan (both 33), David Moran and TJ Reid (both 34) all having featured in All-Ireland finals over the past fortnight at GAA HQ.
Additionally, seeing so many young players breaking into the senior squad over the past 12 months has helped to put an extra spring in Thompson’s step.
“They don’t let me forget anyway that I’m the oldest! A lot of young girls have come in this year. We’ve really extended the panel, but they’ve slotted in like they’ve been there for the last 10. Which is something that you have to pay credit to the management for.
All you have to do is help the young ones along the way and they really appreciate it. It’s great to have fresh faces and a bit of competition in the panel.
"You can see there, you had Emma Murphy coming on the last day, scoring a point and she was unbelievable when she came on.”
When she set out on the latest chapter of her inter-county journey at the beginning of the year, Thompson was undoubtedly driven on by the thought of climbing the Hogan Stand steps for an eighth time; she has also won three All-Ireland club titles at Croke Park with Milford in the past.
Kilkenny’s impressive semi-final win over champions Galway means that Twomey’s charges will have a tough task on their hands if they are to lift the O’Duffy Cup for the 29th time in their history. Yet Thompson — who appeared as a sub in Cork’s last-four victory against Waterford after having a two-game suspension overturned at the 11th hour — is ready to take on the Cats with all guns blazing.
“Kilkenny always bring the same amount of intensity, the same effort. They give no less than 110% and I think it actually brings the best out in us at times. They’re a team that I have massive respect for, but at the same time I’m looking forward to the challenge. Hopefully, we can bring the best out in the team on the day.”