What we learned: Raw emotion set Cork apart this year

Therese O’Callaghan looks at the five things we learned from yesterday’s All-Ireland Senior Camogie Final.

Julia White of Cork scores the winning point in injury time during the All-Ireland Senior Camogie Final. Pic: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

O’CONNOR A RARE GEM

There is only ONE Gemma O’Connor. It was all the talk before the match whether Gemma would play or not. Some thought it insane that the St Finbarr’s club woman would be able to line out considering the extent of the knee injury – a grade two tear on her medial ligament – that she picked up in the All-Ireland semi-final.

She wasn’t selected to start and it was kept quiet up until the last minute. However, with her left knee heavily strapped she took her place behind the Artane Band. Regarded as one of the best players ever, the nine-time All Star showed her scoring quality as well before picking up an incredible eighth All-Ireland senior medal. Her presence alone played a huge part in Cork’s success.

RENA REIGNS SUPREME

Cork became the most successful team in camogie history, topping the roll of honour with 27 titles. Bouncing back from the 2016 defeat, they came to Croke Park in the hope of wrestling back the O’Duffy Cup, and while the game took a while to ignite, it finished in high drama.

Cork captain Rena Buckley lifts The O’Duffy Cup after the All-Ireland Senior Camogie Final. Pic: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

A couple of exquisite points exchanged between Miriam Walsh and Gemma O’Connor sent the game to deadlock. But in the sixth minute of added time, substitute Julia White stitched the winning point, giving Cork captain Rena Buckley her 18th All Ireland senior medal (seven camogie, 11 football). She has also captained both the camogie and football teams to All-Ireland victory. Simply amazing.

YOU CAN’T BEAT HUNGER

The standout reason Cork won was their hunger, it was stronger than Kilkenny’s. Their desire was greater as they exacted revenge for the previous year. The Black and Amber weren’t expecting the physicality either. Such a difference in 12 months in the Rebels’ approach. In terms of intensity and raw emotion they had it all. It was the main aspect in the game that separated Cork from Kilkenny.

THERE ARE NO GUARANTEES IN SPORT

Twelve months ago, the Cork intermediate team suffered the heartbreak of losing the All-Ireland final to Kilkenny by one solitary point. Yesterday, 11 of that starting 15 and two of the substitutes arrived back at GAA headquarters to take to the field again. For long stages, and to the delight of the Rebel fans, it looked like they were going to accept that second chance. They were leading coming down the final stretch.

But, as we know, there are no guarantees in sport.

An equally competitive Meath, who had already beaten the Leesiders by the minimum in the group stages, never gave in. Jane Dolan denying Cork at the death with a point from a free. They will have to do it all over again. The big question now is will Cork get over the line at the third time of asking on October 1.

Cork’s Ashling Thompson battles with Kilkenny’s Julie Ann Malone in the All-Ireland senior camogie final at Croke Park. Picture: Gary Carr

CAMOGIE FLOURISHING IN WESTMEATH

It was camogie’s biggest day and Westmeath were appearing in the Premier Junior All-Ireland final for the first time. But, sure, it was like any other Sunday for the Lake County players, they played with such freedom. Nerves of steel they showed.

A good luck message from Waterford hurling manager Derek McGrath to captain Fiona Leavy didn’t go unheeded either. The Rahaney club woman was elated afterwards. “We wanted to put Westmeath on the map,” she said. “We have 16- and 17-year-olds on the bench and playing intermediate in 2018 is what the future of Westmeath camogie is all about. We will celebrate this until Christmas.” The party actually began as soon as referee Philip McDonald’s final whistle sounded. A day that won’t be forgotten too easily in the Midlands.


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