Padraic Collins of Clare beats Cork’s Steven Sherlock of Cork during the Munster GAA Football Senior Championship Quarter-Final match at Cusack Park in Ennis. Clare won by a point. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Camogie takes centre stage

With the hurling championship not due to get underway until 23 April, the focus this week is very much on camogie with 3 Cork teams involved in big games, 2 of them league finals.

The minor and under 20 hurlers continue their quest for places in the play-off phase of the Munster Championship, with the under 20 footballers also in championship action, and after the senior loss, football in the county could certainly do with a boost.

Very Ireland National Camogie League D1A Final

Cork v Galway at Croke Park on Sunday at 1.50pm

“It’s great to be back in another final and getting the opportunity to play again in Croke Park but that is only secondary, it’s a final and we want to win it.”

So said Cork Senior Camogie Manager Matthew Twomey about Sunday’s big game.

In fact these two sides will see a lot of each other as the season evolves; they already met in the league a few weeks ago in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, and will also meet in the first round of the championship with Galway enjoying home advantage for that clash.

Reflecting on their most recent meeting, Cork were safely into the final and had very little to play and it afforded the management the opportunity to experiment, as Matthew explained.

“It was a strange game. We played well for long periods and only lost late on, but overall we were happy, we got game time into a lot of the panel and to be fair, they all played well.”

Orla Cronin was one of those players and she will be a big addition once her injuries clear up, but Katriona Mackey will miss the final.

Matthew is happy with their preparation but knows they need to win a big game: “without a doubt, we have lost a couple of finals recently and the longer you go without winning one the harder it gets.”

As for Galway, they are the reigning league champions, beating Cork in last year’s final. They are “a very good team as we found to our cost but that’s the challenge for us to step up and I know we can.”

It will be a hectic time for Cork with the Munster Championship coming in a few weeks but Matthew has no concerns. “We have a good block of training done and all the games are factored in, so now we are ready for Sunday and looking forward to heading to Croke Park.”

Chloe Sigerson, a key player in attack says the league campaign has been very good, easy wins over Dublin and Clare followed by a real test against Tipperary.

“That win was very important. We ground a result against a team that are improving all the time and we were delighted with the way we played and won that day, a real battling performance,” she said.

By contrast they turned on the style when beating Kilkenny in Nowlan Park. “It was probably our most efficient display, we really played very well that day and it gave us great confidence, but we know that we will need to be at our best on Sunday to beat Galway.”

Chloe also knows the importance of the game. “It’s a national final and we have not won a big final in Croke Park for some time now, but we are happy where we are and confident we can win, but as always it will not be easy.”

This is a good Galway team even if they have a few long term injuries that might not be back for Sunday, but the win in Cork a few weeks ago, by just a point 1-11 to 1-10, will give them the belief they can win again.

Sarah Dervan, Ailish O’Reilly, Carrie Dolan, Shauna Healy, Roisin Burke, Siobhan Gardiner and Dervla Higgins are all key players for the reigning league champions.

Cork will, injuries apart, will go with their strongest hand in a bid to wrestle the title from Galway.

Amy Lee will in all probability lead a defence that has performed excellently in the league, with Meabh Murphy, Libby Coppinger, Laura Treacy and Laura Hayes a model of consistency.

Saoirse McCarthy, Amy O’Connor, Chloe Sigerson, and Fiona Keating have been scoring regularly while Emma Murphy has made a big impact when introduced and might be a contender to start.

Cork have been the most consistent team in the league to date and will probably start as favourites, but they need a consistent 60 minutes if they are to ‘get the monkey’ of losing finals off their back.

Do that and they will win, their 17th league title but a first since 2013.

Division 2 Final

Cork v Kilkenny on Saturday in Clonmel at 3pm

This league was confined to the second teams of the top 6 counties and Cork went through the group phase unbeaten including a 2-9 to 0-7 win over Saturday’s opponents.

Kilkenny have experienced players in Danielle Quigley, Claire Doherty, Mairead Kennedy and Eimear Leahy and they will be determined to reverse the group result in which they enjoyed home advantage.

Cork were impressive winners that day and if they can reproduce that form, they will be hard to beat and with Fiona Nelligan, Leanne O’Sullivan, Rachel Harty, Lauen Homan, Niamh O’Leary and Hayley Ryan in good form, Cork look better equipped to win.

The final Cork team in action are the minors, they play Galway in Castle Road on Saturday at 3pm. Both teams are assured of a place in the semi-final so very little at stake apart for laying down a marker for a repeat in the semi-final (which is an open draw) or even the final.

Munster Under 20 Football Semi-Final

Cork v Limerick on Monday in Páirc Uí Chaoimh at 7pm

Unlike their hurling counterparts, the footballers at this grade do not have the luxury of the round-robin format, it’s winner takes all in this semi-final.

Limerick have the advantage of a quarter-final win over Waterford and that will help as they bid to reverse the result of last season’s meeting which Cork won comfortably.

David O’Shaughnessy and Aaron Neville got the goals that earned them that win while Emmet Rigter, Darragh Murray and Ronan Quirke also impressed in that win.

Cork played 3 games in the John Kerins Development tournament with mixed results and Manager Bobby O’Dwyer was frustrated by the non-availability of key players for a variety of reasons.

The composition of the Cork team will be interesting and could include Eoghan Nash, Eoin De Burca, Olan Corcoran and Sean Dore.

Whatever 15 is named, Cork should progress to the final with Kerry the likely opposition a week later on 24 April, with Cork set to enjoy home advantage.

Munster Minor Hurling Championship Rd 3

Cork v Clare on Tuesday in Sixmilebridge at 7pm

Wins in their opening 2 games have put Cork in a good position to make the knockout phase and a win here would guarantee that.

Clare beat Tipperary and then lost to Limerick while their game with Waterford due to be played on Monday was called off at short notice owing to a waterlogged pitch in Dungarvan, and having made the journey, they were fairly annoyed at the decision.

Cork beat Waterford first time out and they were better again in comfortably beating Tipperary and that will help facing a tricky looking encounter in the tight confines of the venue.

There is a nice balance to the team, Oire O’Callaghan, Ben Walsh, Conor McCarthy, Barry Walsh and Barry O’Flynn anchor the team and might be good enough to get them over the line.

Munster Under 20 Hurling Championship Rd 3

Cork v Clare on Wednesday in Sixmilebridge at 7pm

Just like their minor colleagues, the under 20s are two from two as they also make the trip to Sixmilebridge with the aim of making it 3 on the bounce, and on the evidence of their demolition of Tipperary last week, they will be well fancied to do just that.

The manner of that win was even more impressive as early on Tipp led by 0-10 to 0-5, yet Cork were 0-12 to 0-11 ahead at half-time.

Clare have had 2 draws in their meetings with Tipperary and Limerick and this is reputed to be a very strong team and playing at home, where Cork were lucky to win last year, they will fancy their chances of winning and in the process ensure the group permutations could very well go to the last game, although as it stands Tipperary and Waterford have a lot of work to do if they are too progress.

Ben Cunningham, Eoin Downey, William Buckley, Colin Walsh, Brion Saunderson, the O’Sullivan brothers Darragh and Adam, and Michael Mullins were key players in the games to date and a repeat should see them win.

Disappointment in Ennis

A short few weeks after winning comfortably there in the league, Cork’s 1 point loss in Ennis on Sunday must viewed as a serious setback for the development of the team.

A win and a likely semi-final victory over Limerick would have kept the squad ticking over and that loss denies them that opportunity along with a trip to Killarney and a meeting with Kerry in the Munster Final.

Now it’s at least a 5 week wait for another competitive outing and going in cold at that, so it’s a test of the management in how they fill the void.

Qualification for the Sam Maguire Cup, barring a strange sequence of results, look safe but going in as a 4th seed will not help and the quality of opposition is only going to get tougher.

A lot of areas need addressing ahead of the next phase, and while they will get 3 more games, irrespective of which competition we are in, there are certainly a tough few weeks ahead.