Tick, tock! We are on the countdown to camogie’s biggest day out! What a year of GAA and Camogie we have had. Some things have been predictable, some things, unexpected. Last weekend we assumed that the new Hurling Champions would be crowned but alas, like 2012, both teams will live to fight another day. Although Clare seemed to be on their way up the steps to collect the McCarthy Cup, Cork stood strong until the end and lead for the first time, in injury time! Shockingly, having played superbly throughout, it was Clare’s Number 2 who drew the game for them. I pay great respect to Domhnall O’ Donovan, who ironically tweeted earlier this year that he was the only outfield player not to score in their qualifier match against Laois. He certainly saved the best until last with a 72nd minute point. I was reminded of a point scoring miracle/fluke of my own a few years ago. Point scoring by corner backs is very rare occurance!
So far it’s been a year of drawn games, as I mentioned earlier in the championship and it got me thinking about our own Camogie Finals. Interestingly, we have had 4 drawn All Ireland Finals. In 1942, where Dublin were eventual winners over Cork. 1967 brought the second drawn final with Antrim beating Dublin in the replay. In 1974 Kilkenny and Cork drew with Kilkenny becoming eventual winnners and finally in 1980, 33 years ago we had our last drawn game between Cork and Limerick. Cork were the winners of that replay. Let’s hope a clear cut winner emerges this Sunday. In any case, there will be newly crowned Liberty Insurance Camogie Champions, which keeps the senior camogie competition in a healthy state.
Our action packed Final day commences with Laois taking on Kildare in the Junior Final. One teacher in St Kevin’s Community College, in Wicklow (Niamh Breen from Kildare) will take on one of her fifth year students (Grace O’ Neill from Laois). Both teams enter the Final with convincing semi final victories. It will make for an intense start to the day. Best of luck to both teams.
The Limerick v Galway Intermediate Final has the potential to be a cracker. Two very strong teams will battle it out. Galway were in this exact position last year and will want to avenge their loss no matter who the opponents. In the round robin stages, this Galway team looked strong, well knitted and played with purpose. They will take confidence in the fact that they have trained with the Galway Senior Team and are managed by the same manager, Tony Ward. His day, no doubt will be planned to the minute!
Limerick’s strongest outfit yet will take to Croke Park with a Junior Munster Championship and a league title under their belts. There is nothing like winning. The confidence it brings can move mountains AND win All Ireland’s. Players like Michelle Casey and Deirdre Fitzpatrick have given so much to their county. An All Ireland Title would be a deserving result for them and for many more. These teams have met earlier this year. Limerick came out on top on that occasion. There is so little between these teams it is hard to call. Either team deserving of an All Ireland Title.
Finally, our Liberty Insurance Senior Final. This game is highly anticipated. Galway and Kilkenny have never met in an All Ireland Final. Kilkenny haven’t claimed a title since 1994 while Galway’s one and only crown was won in 1996. There is no question of hunger.
There has been much talk about Kilkenny’s semi final extravaganza (in the second half). They reached their potential against a strong Cork team.
If they can emulate that performance again they will walk the steps of the Hogan Stand. However, underdogs Galway have much Croke Park experience. They may not have been on the winning side but it’s a new year and a fresher looking Galway team. They have made some good tactical moves with Ann Marie Hayes at full forward and roaming at stages of the game. Ailish O' Reilly has been outstanding for Galway this year and two time player of the match, Therese Maher is simply one of the best players in the game.
For me, one of the greatest battles will be in midfiled between stalwarts Anne Dalton and Niamh Kilkenny. Both are power houses and both have the potential to swing the game for their respective teams. Kilkenny’s full forward line will take watching with a collective tally of 10-18 so far this year. Katie Power will need attention too. Her semi final performance was a joy to watch. Galway’s defenders have the ability to put a halt to this full forward trio, conceding only two goals this season. A double championship win for Galway would make up for all their losses and it is a strong possibility.
There are so many statistics that one could study to fish out a winner. However, it’s all down to the thirty plus girls who take to Croke Park on Sunday. Those final 60 minutes have arrived after nine months of training. The talking is over. Go n-eirí le gach éínne, bainigí súp as an lá!
Championship Diary by Claire O'Connor, All Ireland winner with Wexford Senior Camogie Team & All Star. Follow claire on twitter @clairnichon