It’s a familiar story in today’s Glenn Dimples All-Ireland Senior Camogee Finals. Kilkenny and Cork rival, sometimes bitter, for more than half a century. In fact the pair and Galway have been in the final stages for the past decade, so the teams know each other inside out.
Their combat is expected to be tough and tough and with Ray Kelly ref, we are sure to see a real physical fight, hopefully in contrast to the stop-start nature of last weekend’s football final.
The teams were separated by a point in last year’s semi-finals with Cork coming out victorious, and the sides came into the league this year, so I think the minimum will tear them apart again today.
Since the sides last met in the final, it is Kilkenny’s fourth All-Ireland appearance in five years, their only win in that time when they lifted the Cup behind closed doors in 2020 against Galway. Cork last won the title in 2018 against Kilkenny in a low-scoring, defensive affair settled by an injury-time controversial free-up. Although not a famine, compared to all other countries with a carrier belt of youth and number of players, it should feel like it. Already this year the Under-16 and minor All-Ireland titles are staying in Cork.
The Camogi guys are hoping for a free-flowing attacking game, not an overemphasis on defense or negative tactics, as was served by sides in 2017 and 2018.
It is hoped that Cork will attack the Kilkenny rearguard which may be in question as to the pace, and in front of Amy O’Connor, this may be crucial to his strategy.
Cork has enough quality forwards in former Down players Sorcha McCartan, Chloe Sigerson, Fiona Keating and evergreen Katrina McKay to trouble the Kilkenny defense if they are supplied with enough quality possession. But if most of his half-forward line spends the game on the defensive side of the field, overtaking Kilkenny in that area and relying on the transition from pace, it could be in line with Kilkenny.
The fact is that the scoring range in Camogee is not as large as in hurling, so Kilkenny will see his forwards working extremely hard, maintaining their defensive shape and limiting supplies in the cork. At the very least, this should have affected the quality of supply, just as Waterford did for three-quarters of the semi-finals.
Cork was lucky to emerge victorious in that game, his superior strength, conditioning and fitness and Ashling Thompson’s assured performance, ultimately the deciding factors. They obviously must have learned a lot from this fear, but is two weeks time enough to change that?
Kilkenny will try to flip the cork in the middle third and rely on the more traditional values of good handling, good control and crisper striking to get the score. Along with Dennis Gaul, Miriam O’Connell, Miriam Walsh and Julian Malone, he has the ability to do just that.
Coming into this game, the most worrying situation for Cork is his failure to score by 25 minutes against Waterford. Only five points from the game were scored in 40 minutes, which would not play out against Kilkenny. Cork has yet to make a full 65 minutes this season, and in last year’s final, he was beaten by a late bounce from Galway. With ten minutes to go ahead, instead of going ahead and going for the win, they retreated and played very defensively. The big question is, have they learned anything from it?
If Kilkenny can perfect their match-up and dominate Ashling Thompson and Hannah Looney in midfield, it will go a long way towards victory, but it’s easier said than done. Katie Power is playing her best camogie this year, alternating between midfield and forward. Her potential teammate is Laura Murphy, who won the semi-finals 1–1. They are more than capable of performing to stop the cork launchpad.
There has been a loss of personnel in both the camps this year. As for Kilkenny, the Doyle sisters suffered horrific cruciate injuries. With no Colette Dormer or Davina Tobin in the full-back line, Brian Dowling had to get creative with his panel. A move to full-back for Grace Walsh has worked and, along with Michelle Tehan and Niamh Deely, they put Galway in the full-forward line by just one point from play in the semi-finals, although they did commit some cynical fouls in the first half. Perhaps the most disappointing for Galway with Tehan’s rugby tackle on Siobhan McGrath.
Claire Phelan, a six-year veteran, has a D. You have to give your hat to the back-room members, Philly Larkin and Pat O’Neill, who have significant outfield experience winning the All-Ireland with Kilkenny and are now passing it on. Next Generation. They have a strong defensive unit and teak tough, and I’m sure they’ll have a plan for a cork attack.
Speaking of back-room team members, it’s no easy feat for Matthew Tomei in his first year in charge, to bring this team back to All-Ireland. Bringing in Davey Fitzgerald can be seen as a masterstroke and has received a lot of praise. How much has Davy Fitz invested in this? If Dewey can give it 100 percent, perhaps his seal and influence can be seen more in the cork play.
Media, other work and club throwing commitments have clashed with Camogee match day and preparations this year and it’s hard to know if he’s as handsome as he wants to be. Cork Camp’s soundbites have all been very positive so it will be interesting to see what stance they take against Kilkenny.
Cork is without Orla Cronin, Linda Collins and Pamela McKay this season, but newcomers like Leaving Cert student Mebh Murphy have basically slotted in and have players like Emma Murphy to spring from the bench and double minor star Orleth called .
Cork half-backs Laura Tracy and Saoirse McCarthy have been given the freedom to go ahead and break and it will be a fascinating clash with Galle and Malone, the latter receiving four points from playing in the semi-finals. Miriam Walsh will have a lot of brains ahead for Kilkenny as a whole. His aerial prowess, his ability to win the ball, and his selfless ability to position the player better make him a key player in the Kilkenny attack.
Hopefully Libby Koppinger picks her up. She was one of the Cork players who dug deep when things were going against her in the semi-finals.
Kilkenny has been unbeaten this season, and I think that run will continue today if their match-up is done right. It’s like they’re playing with a cause and won’t be stopped.