When a team is just one step away from the final in any sport it is human nature to begin to dream and take your eye off the ball.
This Saturday in Nowlan Park there is no time for day dreaming as Galway take on Kilkenny and reigning All Ireland champions Wexford lock horns with Cork. The æBig Four’ have finished top of the O’Duffy Cup table and both games are very much in the mix.
“”I wouldn’t be able to make a call in either of the matches. In the previous seven weeks of championship it was safe to say that no-one was at their best. The level of intensity in Nowlan Park on Saturday from the four teams will be a world away from what has been seen earlier in the season,”” insists Model County All Star Claire O’Connor.
“”Every team in the semi-finals has the ability to win the All Ireland. Whoever puts in a good performance on Saturday and gets a bit of luck can win and then the same can be said in the Final for whichever two make it.””
Before the champs take to the field they will be interested spectators in the first semi between Kilkenny and Galway.
“”We played Galway earlier in the year and they looked sharp and we also played Kilkenny who have been suffering from a number of injuries throughout the campaign. If Kilkenny can strike form they always seem to be able to get one over on Galway but having been beaten by Galway I know how good they are,”” says the Rathnure star.
O’Connor has been representing her county with distinction for 20 years having started out playing camogie as a “”miniature hero”” in full size goals in primary school. She eventually made her senior debut in 1999. Then, after 28 years of waiting, Wexford finally reached the Promised Land four years ago.
“”We had been building for a few years and year on year we added something with people like Aidan Breen and Willie Carley coming in before we finally did it. In 2007 Stellah Sinnott brought everything together and it was the culmination of all the previous work. 2010 was like that as everything and everyone was so fresh and it all just came together. We had so many regrets from the previous two years it nearly made it better than 2007.””
With Cork involved the Duffy Cup holders are fully aware that the Rebelettes are never beaten until the final whistle as encounters in recent years have seen Cork come back from the death to snatch victory. In the 2007 League Final they hit three late goals to record an amazing comeback. That bitter loss gave the losers that day the drive to reverse the result come September.
Last year was the first time since 2002 that the Munster marvels did not contest an All Ireland final so now they are the ones chomping at the bit to knock Wexford off their perch.
“”When it comes to the big day Cork always perform. Nobody in Wexford is thinking we are going to have it our own way and we certainly know what we are coming up against. As a back I’m looking at the danger of the Cork forwards who are brilliant and they also have a serious midfield. They are a very attacking team so we will have to have all our avenues covered to keep them at bay. I’m just thinking about the first 30 minutes on Saturday,”” insists the All Star.
After a midweek briefing at training the Wexford camp were told to watch what they say to the media. Thus there is no hint of over-confidence from their corner back when it comes to their own chances.
“”As for ourselves all I know is that we have been training hard all year and getting good commitment so if we work hard enough on the day we can do it. I have no doubt they are thinking the exact same as us and you have two teams capable of beating each other. There is only ever a score or good defending at the other end that has brought the game our way or their way in turn. We’ll just have to wait and see,”” finished O’Connor.
* Interview as it appeared in the August 11th edition of the Irish Independent