Amy O’Connor in action against Muireann Creamer of Limerick during the Munster Senior Camogie Final match in July. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Camogie team face old foes Kilkenny in semi-final

After the disappointment of the hurlers’ loss last Sunday, another Cork team venture to HQ on Sunday - this time it’s the senior camogie girls to play the reigning champions Kilkenny in the All-Ireland semi-final.

There is also an All-Ireland Minor Camogie semi-final on Saturday and the small matter of the men’s 2020 County Senior Football Final on Sunday. As the saying goes, there is always another game!

Cork v Kilkenny

“I came away from Páirc Uí Chaoimh very impressed with Kilkenny, their work rate was much improved and they also played with the confidence I would expect from champions, and they were much too good for Wexford.”

Cork Camogie manager Paudie Murray speaking ahead of Sunday’s semi-final, which he is happy is been played in Croke Park. “Well first of all Páirc Uí Chaoimh have been brilliant to us but I always feel it is easier to focus on an away fixture and we are really looking forward to the game.”

Given that they were always likely to emerge from their group, which they did comfortably even if at times they were not that impressive.

Paudie agrees: “What it did allow to do was to work on some game plans and also we trained hard during the group phase, so we could work on hurling and sharpen up at this time of the year.”

Getting a bye into the semi-final was also a help. “Well we had a few players carrying knocks and that gave them a chance to recover, which they all have, and unfortunately for the dual players, the ladies football team were beaten, and we have had those girls have had two full weeks hurling behind them.”

The return of Pamela Mackey to the panel is also a huge plus: “Pamela took a few months off and was involved in marathon training, so her fitness levels were not an issue and when she indicated she was interested in returning, well too good a player not to have around and she has quickly regained her sharpness.”

Kilkenny are both league and All-Ireland champions and the manner in they dismissed Wexford would suggest they are coming into form at just the right time and that will be of concern to Cork who played the same opposition in a challenge game recently but not as comprehensively.

The champions are strong in all departments and having beaten Cork in last year’s semi-final will be confident of repeating that result.

Aoife Doyle, Katie Nolan, Katie Power returning after injury, Denise Gaule, Megan Farrell, Collette Dormer and Grace Walsh are all very experienced players and will relish facing Cork.

Kilkenny do have concerns about Kellyann Doyle, while they also lost Miriam Bambrick to a straight red card and that reduces their options off the bench.

There is nice mix in this Cork team and were somewhat unlucky to lose the league semi-final, after extra-time, to Galway. A few missed chances proving costly, but they came away from the game confident they were going in the right direction.

The addition of Pamela Mackey strengthens the defence, which has performed well all season particularly Laura Treacy whose consistency is a measure of her class, Meabh Cahalane and Laura Hayes.

Hannah Looney is a tireless worker, while the attack should feature Chloe Sigerson, Katrina Mackey, Linda Collins and the pace and accuracy of Amy O’Connor, whose eye for goal could be crucial.

An intriguing contest in prospect, if Cork get up to championship pace quickly not having played in a few weeks, they look well capable of ending the champions reign.

Galway and Tipperary meet in the other semi-final, and while the Premier girls have been improving with each outing, it’s hard to see them cause an upset and Galway should make it to another decider.

St Lachtan’s Freshford is the venue on Saturday at 2pm for the All-Ireland Minor semi-final with Cork facing Dublin.

Cork are the holder in fact as the championship was not completed last year so they are actually going for three in a row and are warm favourites to make it to the final.

Meave Ring, Olivia McAllen, Orlaith Cahalane, Rose Murphy and Aimee Morgan lead the Cork challenge which should be good enough to advance to the final, where they would play either Galway or Kilkenny.

Cork face Kilkenny in Croke Park on Sunday at 4pm.

2020 County Senior Football Final

11 months after it was originally scheduled, the clubs finally get the opportunity to play in this eagerly awaited decider.

A lot has happened in the interim, but the final will be played in summer conditions, on the perfect surface that is the ‘Páirc, and with quality players on both sides, it should ensure a cracking encounter.

Strange also that your first big championship game of the year is a county final, and irrespective of the result, both will be out again the following week in the first round of the 2021 Championship.

In both cases there is just a six day turnaround to Nemo Rangers v Valley Rovers, while Castlehaven play West Cork rivals Newcestown; win or lose that’s a big ask for players and management of both clubs.

Factor in the Cahalane brothers Damien and Conor who have to play in a County Final just seven days after the heartbreak of last Sunday in Croke Park. Both clubs will have prepared accordingly.

Nemo Rangers manager Paul O’Donovan alluded to this when he said: “We haven’t even mentioned the 2021 Championship, all our focus has been on Sunday and I am sure Castlehaven will have the same approach.”

One other aspect of the final is that Nemo are the holders and for this particular group retaining the title is not something they have achieved yet.

Paul Kerrigan of Nemo made that very point. “I was part of a four in a row winning team, but this is a new team and it is our ambition to retain the county, but we know that Castlehaven are a very good team and we will need to be at our best to win.”

Looking at the players on view, it should be a cracker. Brian and Michael Hurley, Mark Collins, the Cahalane brothers, Damien, Conor and given his form with the Cork under 20s Jack could also feature and Anthony Seymour will be key for the ‘Haven.

Nemo will look to Paul Kerrigan, Michael Aodh Martin, Kevin O’Donovan, Colin O’Brien, Luke Connolly, Mark, Stephen and Alan Cronin along with Barry O’Driscoll as they bid to retain their crown.

The semi-final wins were dramatic; Nemo hit a late point to defeat Duhallow, while the ‘Haven knocked out the ‘Barrs in a first ever penalty shoot out, but that was so long now they are irrelevant.

Picking a winner is almost impossible given the strange circumstances in which they both come into the game, but just a slight, and it’s very slight nod to Nemo Rangers.

Conor Lane will referee the game which will be live on C103.

At time of writing, only 500 supporters will be allowed attend, while there was 40,000 in Croke Park last Sunday and a short few weeks ago over 7,000 from outside the county at an All-Ireland quarter-final in the very same stadium.

In my opinion it should be similar to that of Minor and Under 20 finals in Thurles last week - 4,400 - surely even at this late stage the numbers can be increased. Nemo Rangers v Castlehaven is on Sunday at Páirc Uí Chaoimh at 3pm.

Tough day

“It was like trying to stop the tide with a bucket; powerful Limerick side, we congratulate them on their win, hopefully we can learn from this, regroup and go again.” Cork manager Kieran Kingston was gracious as ever in the aftermath of last Sunday’s demoralising defeat.

Limerick should be now celebrating a four in a row, a loss that will haunt them to Kilkenny in a semi-final denying that record, but from what we witnessed in this Championship, it is going to take a supreme effort to stop them in the next few years - they could be as dominant as Dublin were in the football.

What now for Cork, well beaten all over the field? The key is to learn from it and take the lessons on board which I am sure both players and management will; 13 were playing in their first hurling final - Eoin Cadogan played in the 2010 football final - the experience of the big day will stand to them.

Kieran added: “I do believe this team will be successful and when we are we will look back on this day and it will make us stronger.”

Overall it was a season of progress and hopefully we can build on that for next year, which should see a full league campaign and a return to the round-robin in the Munster Championship which should also help the development of the team.

For now though, let us thank the players and management for an uplifting few weeks, and not judge them on last Sunday, because in reality very few if any team would have lived with Limerick, such was their control of the game from their very first score after just 13 seconds.

It was not all doom and gloom and the impressive All-Ireland wins at under 20 and minor level gives us all reasons that the future is very bright, but remember the gap between these grades and senior is fairly substantial and let’s not get carried away.

Congratulations to the players and management of both teams, they are worthy and deserving All-Ireland champions.