By Daragh Ó Conchúir
Cathal Murray was pleased that his Galway side got their Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship campaign off to a winning start against Cork at Kenny Park in Athenry despite a lengthy period of inactivity.
The westerners repeated their League final victory over the Rebels, this time on a margin of 1-12 to 0-12, Siobhán McGrath’s goal and eight points from player of the match Carrie Dolan (above) helping to turn around a three-point interval deficit.
Cork only scored two points in the second half, after going 20 minutes without moving the dial in that regard. Katrina Mackey, playing her first game since suffering a rib injury in the first half of the Leesiders’ opening League tie, took over the free-taking duties in the final quarter to register those two scores, adding to four points from play in the first half.
The visitors ended with 14 wides and it was no wonder that manager Matthew Twomey was bemoaning his side’s “shocking” conversion rate.
In contrast, Galway were more economic, particularly facing into the wind in the second half, as they trailed by 0-10 to 0-7.
The Tribeswomen don’t have provincial competition unlike the rest of their rivals and that is an inequity Murray feels needs to be addressed but he was quick to acknowledge that Cork hadn’t a huge advantage in this regard, having been defeated in the first round of the Munster Championship themselves.
“We’d a seven-week break and that’s not the same for everyone,” Murray noted afterwards. “It would have been ten weeks if we didn’t get to the League final. That is hard to manage and a huge disadvantage to us.
“But at the same time, they had only one game against Waterford so we can’t be using that as an excuse either. We just weren’t at the pace of it (in the first half). They had a sweeper and had a serious platform in the half-back line. We just didn’t work hard enough, we didn’t track the runners and that’s not something we do. We’re always proud of our workrate, the way we work on the field and our attitude wasn’t there in the first half.
“We spoke about it at half-time and in fairness, the girls knew themselves it wasn’t good enough and in the second half they were a way better team, worked incredibly hard and some great scores there near the finish into a strong breeze.
“Cork were throwing everything at us with that strong breeze. They certainly had a lot of wides and we can’t run away from that. They created an awful lot of chances and that’s something we’re going to have to look at. But at the same time, it’s the first round of the championship. You don’t have to be going flat out. It’s about improving all the time. We’re happy with the win but there is loads to improve on.”
That prodigal shooting was the critical factor according to Twomey.
“That’s the difference between the two teams,” said the Cork boss. “The stats we had was that we dominated the game with chances but our conversion rate is not good enough.
“We said coming up here, winning the game wasn’t going to win an All-Ireland and losing the game wasn’t going to lose the All-Ireland. We’re in the same place going home as we would have been had we won the game. We still have to beat Clare and we still have to beat Down.
“(Galway) are a great side. They had one sniff of a goal and took it and that’s the difference unfortunately.
“We’ll just have to go away again Tuesday night, see where we’re at and get the players ready for Down. Where we’re at now, from here on in, it’s knockout. We have to beat Down and if we don’t, we’re out. We have to beat Clare, if we don’t, we’re out. That’s the way it is, and it puts us under a small bit more pressure. We’re trying to nurse a few injuries as well, try and get as many as we can back into the fray.
“But we’ve no complaints. It’s just our conversion rate was shocking and that’s what we have to work on, again.”
Dolan was not getting over-excited, with the competition only getting under way.
“Victory is the most important thing, the thing we came here for today,” the Clarinbridge sharpshooter stated. “The first half was very poor on our behalf, not what we wanted to do. Training was going well but we were lucky to be three points down at half-time to be honest so we said if we go out in the second half and work hard and try and get points on the board and if we went one up on them, try to shove on.
“There are still a lot of improvements to be honest. They probably missed a couple of frees they will be disappointed with but we’re very happy that we shoved on in the second half and got a foothold in the game.
“Cork was our focus. We’ll be back training on Monday night and our focus will shift to Clare then.”
Something will have to give in that game as Clare began their Group 1 campaign with a 1-19 to 2-11 triumph at the Liatroim Fontenoys grounds, two points each from Louise McNamara and sub Eimear Kelly, and an injury-time goal from Áine O’Loughlin wresting back the initiative for the Banner, after the prodigious Niamh Mallon’s goal and nine points had seen the home side hit the front in the final quarter.
In Group 3, Waterford had ten different scorers as they made light work of Offaly by 2-26 to 1-9 in Banagher. Beth Carton shot 11 points, after Annie Fitzgerald and Mairead O’Brien had registered first-half goals. Sarah Harding struck the Waterford net from a second-half free but the result was never in any doubt.
They will travel to Limerick in a fortnight with the Shannonsiders needing to win after a second-half rally fell short in Dunloy against Antrim. The Saffrons led by seven points at the break, Siobhán McKillop scoring the goal, and when Limerick rallied to bring themselves in touching distance, Róisín McCormick and Áine Magill steadied the ship to cement a 1-15 to 0-14 success.