By Daragh Ó Conchúir
Matthew Twomey admitted to relief being the prevailing emotion as his Cork team brought a four-game losing run in three different competitions to an end in the Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship.
Waterford, Galway and Antrim all secured places in the last six at least by making it two wins from two against Limerick, Clare and Offaly respectively. That trio will go into the final round in a fortnight targeting top spot in their groups, with two of the three No 1 seeds earning direct progression to the semi-finals.
Cork could still be one of those sides. Conversely, as a result of their first-round defeat to Galway and with a joust to come against a Clare side that only lost by 1-13 to 0-13 against the League champions at Cusack Park on Saturday and already has a victory under their belt, they remain in danger of not advancing also.
A brace of goals from Katrina Mackey and another major from Amy O’Connor, all in the second quarter and two between the 30th and 33rd minutes, turned the Rebels’ tie against Down and having trailed by a point, they led by seven at half-time before cruising to a 3-19 to 1-10 at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Niamh Mallon hitting ten points (half from play) for the visitors.
“It was a tight, tough first half,” said Twomey. “I think we’d 96 possessions to their 30 in the first half so we knew it would come right. We were running at them and we knew we were causing trouble. We got a couple of scores then before half-time that virtually killed the game off but they’re a good side. They went toe-to-toe with us and fair play to them.
“We’re after watching a good few of their games in the last few weeks. When you’ve a forward like Niamh Mallon, she’s an excellent forward and she caused us fierce trouble. They’re very organised, even their short puckouts and for our puckouts too, they were cute enough and it took us a while to adapt, which was probably disappointing from our side of things but we were happy enough the way the players adapted then just in the last quarter of the first half, to pull away.”
Twomey took the opportunity to get minutes into his extended panel once the result was assured with Pamela Mackey’s return after a lengthy absence a particularly welcome sight.
However, Orlaith Cahalane joined an extended injury list after breaking her foot training with the Cork ladies football team during the week and with another three players involved with the footballers too, the squad depth is being tested.
“Emma Murphy came on and got a score, Ali Smith got three points. She’s always doing that for us when she comes on. Kate Wall did well. Pamela Mackey is just back, we only got good news on her yesterday from the doctors so we said we’d try get as much time into her (as we could.)
“Unfortunately, Orlaith Cahalane broke her foot Thursday night so we’ve about nine serious injuries, we’ve been very unlucky so we said we’d use the bench to see what we have ‘cos there will be times that we will need them to come in and change the game. Tonight wasn’t a token gesture but the game was wrapped up but they made a fierce impression and we’re delighted with it.
“We’re looking at Clare now, concentrating on that. It’s a different type of game. They play a running game but we’re happy we’re off the board and that’s the main thing.
“The preparation will be the same as for the Galway game. I know we were beaten and we got probably a bit of unfair criticism after but we were very happy with how we played; it was just the conversion rate was very poor.”
Sticking with that theme, O’Connor felt that even with the 15-point winning margin, more chances had gone abegging but felt that observers should be cognisant of the youth of the squad.
“It was a good game,” O’Connor opined. “We knew that Down coming down here would be really difficult but obviously the size of this pitch really suits us. We knew even if they were going to go a bit defensive then we’d be able to manage with the size of the pitch. We left a couple of opportunities behind us but we’ll learn from it and we’re going in the right direction.
“In games like this, you’re playing an inter-county team, someone’s going to have their purple patch but a lot of (Down’s) was down to us as well. We needed to pull our socks up, starting doing the right things on the ball and sticking to the process that we know well.
“We’ve a very young squad. I’m actually ancient and I’m only 27 this year! We’re a young squad, we’re learning all the time and we’re making the right steps I think.”
In Group 3, Waterford consigned Limerick to a second consecutive defeat at Cappamore yesterday. Niamh Rockett had a first-half goal and with the supreme Beth Carton slotting seven points with the aid of the breeze, Seán Power’s unit led by 1-11 to 0-5 at the break, Claire Keating contributing four points for Limerick.
The home team couldn’t make the desired inroads with the elements at their backs in the second half however, with the Waterford defence well on top.
In contrast, the Déise girls carried the greater threat and Carton unleashed a rocket to the top corner of the net for their second goal, as the De La Salle destroyer finished with a tally of 1-12 (1-8 from play) and Waterford prevailed by 2-19 to 0-11.
Róisin McCormick shot 1-10 as Antrim accounted for a gritty Offaly by 3-16 to 1-12 in Portglenone in the other Group 3 game on Saturday. The goal was an absolute jewel in the first half, after she had set up Áine Magill for Antrim’s first major and Caitrin Dobbin had the Saffrons’ third major before the interval with a snappy ground struck to make sure the hosts would have valuable breathing space through the second half.
In contrast, it was a real struggle for Galway, who could never shake off Clare and were glad of Siobhán McGrath’s first-half goal to enable them to edge the verdict.