If you are a Cork camogie player the second Sunday in September has been a significant date for the past eight years. It’s the day when they would take on all challengers in a bid to capture the O’Duffy Cup.
The 2010 final saw that great run come to an end as Wexford defeated Galway in the ladies small ball showpiece event. For Cork star Gemma O’Connor it wasn’t easy to take.
“”I’ll be honest I didn’t go to it last year. As a player that might seem strange but after being there every year since 2002 not being there on the day was soul destroying. I actually had a football game on that day so I didn’t even watch on television and i was glad to be able to be doing something on the day,”” admits the St Finbarrs player.
“”To not be there for the first time in so long was almost surreal but at the end of the day all things must come to an end and that is especially true in sport where everything has to come to an end.””
O’Connor joined the Cork panel in 2002 at the start of that amazing run and success followed.
“”For so long it was ourselves and Tipp and the rivalry was great and there were some great games but over the last few years new teams have come on the scene. Cork and Tipp had been setting the standard and raising the bar but now teams like Wexford and Galway have come along and they have raised it again and now we have to get back with them.””
Cork’s dominance also saw their player picking up individual All Stars and last year saw O’Connor not being selected for the first time since they began seven years ago.
“”The All Stars are a real bonus at the end of the year. It really gives you a feel good factor. Last year we didn’t produce the goods and to be fair I didn’t deserve one. But, as I said everything has to end. I would try not to think about an All Star as my main objective is to get an All Ireland this year.””
The Munster player feels Saturday’s semi-finals will be unbelievably intense and close affairs and points that a number of things will have to go right for any side to book their place in the Final.
“”Obviously you need a bit of luck and then it’s down to who wants it more and of course who plays best for the hour. People say you have to create your own luck and that can be true as when a ball bounces in the square late on it is a case of who wants it more. Everything has to be factored in. Things need to go right for any team to come out on top. As I said it will literally come down to the puck of a ball,”” says the multiple All Star.
“”Everyone is ok and there are no major injury worries, except for a few small niggles. Everything is looking ok and hopefully things will go alright for us.””
The Cork players will get to see a small bit of the first match which throws in at 2pm and their midfielder has a sneaky suspicion that the Cats can do it.
“”Similarly to ourselves and Wexford Galway and Kilkenny is going to be a very tough game. We played Kilkenny a few weeks back and they were very impressive and physical. It’s really hard to predict but going on the last game we played I’d tip Kilkenny against Galway, “” says O’Connor.
All four teams have beaten each other this year and have shown that each can take the other’s scalp meaning that, despite plenty of healthy respect among the sides, there will be confidence in each camp that they can take another step closer to claiming the O’Duffy Cup. Let’s finish with a clichÚ – it’s too close to call!
* Interview as carried in Friday August 12th edition of Irish Times