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Cork look for revenge on Kilkenny

Wednesday, 6th September, 2017 6:02pm

This time last year both Cork and Kilkenny were preparing for the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Camogie Final. Cork were going for three in a row while Kilkenny were bidding to end a long wait for another O’Duffy Cup. As it was, the most famous cup in camogie made its way to the Marble City.

Now the game’s greatest rivals are set to do battle again on Sunday and already the battle lines have been drawn with Cork boss Paudie Murray firing the first shots.

“Well it won’t be pretty I can assure you, as we all know how Kilkenny will set up ten or 11 behind the ball in a very defensive formation. The challenge for us is to come up with a game plan that will beat that system,” he says.

Kilkenny manager Ann Downey disagrees: “Paudie is entitled to his opinion but I think he is wrong, we play to our strengths and that has brought us success and hopefully that will be good enough on Sunday, and we are really looking forward to the game.”

The other challenge facing Cork is the absence of Gemma O’Connor: “A huge blow,” says Paudie, “Gemma has been so vital to us over many years but again it is something that we have known about since a few days after she picked up the injury and we have adjusted accordingly, but there is no doubt Gemma’s experience and quality robs us of a great player.”

This sentiment is shared by long serving goalkeeper Aoife Murray, who says: “I'm gutted for her, she's been such a key player for us over many years and has got us out of many a tight corner. You never need motivation in an All-Ireland Final but we have that bit extra now to try and win it for Gemma.”

Aoife has played in many finals, winning more then she has lost. She is now based in Dublin for the last few years so what keeps her going?

“I suppose the real answer is I just love playing with Cork, and of course my club Cloughduv. I missed the league a few years but not this year - I wanted to get back early and try and rectify the hurt of last year’s loss,” she reflects.

After the league final loss, Cork entered the group phase of the championship unsure of their format but they were a transformed team, playing brilliant camogie and easily and impressively making the semi-final.

Paudie explains: “We trained exceptionally hard for the league and did only the bare minimum of stick work, once that was done we changed our approach for the championship and we thrilled with the way we played.”

The semi-final against Galway was a strange game - an excellent first half and then Cork went over 20 minutes in the second period without a score.

“Well Galway are a good team and we had a five week lay-off and Gemma had picked up a knock in training on the Thursday before and was a doubt, but I was reasonably happy at half-time," says Paudie.

"Just after half-time we had a few opportunities to go further ahead and missed them and that gave Galway a chance which they took but I was really pleased, delighted in fact, that we finished that match, especially the defensive work. A lot of things we worked on in training, hooking, blocking and back-up all paid off and it was great to win a tight match and hopefully it will stand to us on Sunday,” says Paudie.

Cork also have a few players returning from injury and that will strengthen their hand and options, even allowing for Gemma’s absence.

Aoife Murray is in brilliant form in goal, Chloe Sigerson, Laura Tracey, Pamela Mackey and the ever dependable and inspirational captain Rena Buckley anchor a solid defence.

Ashling Thompson’s work rate is phenomenal, while in attack Catriona Mackey, Amy O’Connor and Orla Cotter have an eye for goal and will be determined to trouble the champions' defence.

Add in Eimear O’Sullivan, Julia White and Meave Cahalane and it’s an indication that Cork have depth in the squad.

And what of the champions? They have done all that is required of them, league winners and they easily saw off the challenge of Leinster rivals Dublin in the semi-final.

Their team has altered little from last year, Ann Dalton makes them tick and her reading of the game is excellent as is her distribution, while Denise Gaul, Collette Dormer, Shelley Farrell, Michelle Quilty, Katie Power and Megan Farrell will want to show that last year’s win was not just a once off, and as we all know, champions are hard to beat.

Like last year, Cork are in both finals. The intermediate team play Meath, but there was an altered approach this year as Paudie explains: “The crossover of players is not as large and we have expanded the backroom team and that helps, I will probably watch the intermediate game from the stand.”

One thing is sure, there is little love lost between the teams and that will only heighten the exchanges. Both teams have very differing motivations but the one objective to win the title, but who will win?

If Cork produce the play that saw them ease through the group, irrespective how Kilkenny are set up, they will win, but the loss of Gemma O’Connor could also shape the outcome.

A close one to call, but Cork to shade it.

Intermediate Final

Cork v Meath

It is somewhat ironic that since losing last year’s All-Ireland Final, Cork have lost just one game, to Meath, in the group phase of the championship having earlier captured the league title in impressive fashion.

Meath have improved immensely over the years and are a strong physical team with good players in Aoife Minogue, Caroline Quinn, Jane Dolan and Kristina Troy and will be determined to score a second win in a short space of time over this Cork side.

Niamh Ni Chaoimh is the Cork captain and is well aware of the Meath challenge. “We saw how good they were in the group, although the conditions were very poor on the day, but we are happy to be back in the final and hopefully performing much better than we did in losing to Kilkenny last year.”

This is a very well balanced Cork team and they are deserving finalists, and as well as Niamh, they have excellent players in Lauren Callanan, Linda Collins, Leah Weste, Keeva McCarthy, Rachel O’Shea and Amy Lee.

Cork look well capable of exacting revenge for the loss earlier in the championship, and with a strong and focused 60 minutes, they should get the day off to a winning start.

Both games are live on C103, the intermediate final at 2pm with the senior decider to follow at 4pm.

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