But for a late goal from Wexford’s Una Leacy, Cork would now be preparing for the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Camogie final on September 14th.The sides drew in Thurles last Saturday and must do battle again in Walsh Park today (Saturday, August 30). While she would have liked to have helped the Rebels advance at the first time of asking, Cork midfielder Ashling Thompson is keen to make the most of the second chance.
“It was really disappointing to draw as we had led for most of the game,” she said, “and it was disheartening to leave in a late goal but that’s what happens, you just have to be thankful that they didn’t end up winning.
“It gives us belief. Wexford had already beaten us well and people might have been thinking that Cork were no good.
“Deep down, there was disappointment afterwards but it’s always important to look ahead to the next game and take the positives.”
An intercounty All-Ireland would certainly go nicely with two club titles she has won with Milford. Ashling’s family is from, and have played for, Newtownshandrum but her mother Sheila taught in Milford and was the club’s first coach so Ashling, having gone to school in Milford, played there too. The club was only formed in 1997 and while it soon established itself among the elite, county finals were lost in 2004, ’09 and ’11.
Something drastic was needed and it arrived in the form of a pact at the start of 2012.
“I think we actually did have it in writing,” Ashling remembers.
“It was basically to give your full commitment, 100 percent. From the start of the year, we set out eight steps towards winning an All-Ireland final. We hadn’t even won a county at this stage so it was kind of funny!
“It was taken seriously though, eight steps and if you don’t want to follow them then there’s the door. When everyone bought into that, you’re determined to do it for the person beside you because you know that they’re giving it so much.”
Having taken every one of those eight steps to All-Ireland glory, they repeated the feat in 2013-14 campaign. Far from being tired by the exertions, they were energised.
“I think we had gained so much confidence from winning it, because we had been so deflated before that.
“To win an All-Ireland club is a fairytale for a club like ours, I’d say it’s only in 10 years that we’ll realise what we achieved. A lot of people said after we won the first one that it was a flash in the pan – I don’t know how winning an All-Ireland club title is a flash in the pan – so we still wanted to prove ourselves.
“We still wanted to back that up and go back-to-back because they say that great teams win two or three. We knuckled down and had the exact same routine as the first year.”
Dreams of All-Ireland glory were what helped Ashling along the road to recovery after a horrific car crash in 2009. She attributes former Milford manager Frank Flannery’s input both on and off the pitch as being key.
“With Frankie, he had basically met my needs as a person as well as a player and he really understood where I was coming from,” she says.
“When he spoke with me, I knew then that there was a connection, he understood where I was coming from. That drove me on then and the girls totally had my back through everything.”
During recovery, she admits that was “a dark place” but one area where she found solace was tattoos, which she recently spoke about on the RTÉ magazine programme Thank GAA It’s Friday.
“Before TV and all that, people might have been like, ‘Who’s this one?’, because I don’t think there is any other camogie player with a half-sleeve,” she says.
“Now everyone knows about them and I think anyone with a tattoo anyway would have them there for a reason. There’s loads of meaning behind them, it’s my way to express myself.”
Since the TV appearance, she has also found herself contacted by players who have found themselves in difficulty. While initially taken aback, she has been delighted to help as much as she can.
“I’ve had a few younger camogie players from around the country messaging me on Facebook as regards mental health, girls that are struggling and stuff,” she says.
“It’s crazy to think that I’m the one giving out this advice to younger girls when that was me before, and I’m really proud that people are looking up to me.
“Conor Cusack tweeted about it and so did a few other people, it was great to see that people like that had noticed and admired me for talking out.”