All week, I leaned towards Kilkenny to end a 20-year title drought, chiefly because of their consistency through the season but there was a view that Cork were beginning to peak at the right time.
This is the 110th anniversary of the Camogie Association and they must be commended for showcasing the big day really well. We got three very good competitive matches, with players leaving everything on the field.
Down had to lose two Premier Junior finals before winning the 2014 edition while in the intermediate final, Limerick roared back following defeat in 2013. Well done to these counties too.
But it is the senior game that had everyone enthralled, and especially how a game can turn so quickly. Michelle Quilty’s goal had Kilkenny in the ascendancy at the interval and seemingly set for glory. But then Cork emerged a different, more driven team on the restart. They blew their opponents away on the restart dominating the second 30 minutes plus — outscoring Kilkenny 2-8 to 0-3.
The camogie was magnificent also, so too the passion and intensity, as Cork finished out in style.
From corner-back Laura Treacy, appearing in her first All-Ireland senior final, to her Killeagh club mate Angela Walsh who set up Jennifer O’Leary for the game-changing goal, this was a stunning turnaround. Jennifer and Briege Corkery raised two crucial white flags prior to that to lead the revival. Eimear O’Sullivan stood out too, and her point just before half-time was critical.
Remember no Cork sub was introduced until the dying seconds and for 15 players to withstand such pressure and physicality was amazing. Praise too for manager Paudie Murray, in his third year in charge, and to his management who kept cool heads. They never panicked when Gemma O’Connor and Orla Cotter suffered early knocks and both went on to make telling contributions.
It was a miserable day for Kilkenny, losing the intermediate decider as well. The Noresiders took the game to the Cork in the senior clash from the throw-in but Cork can be thankful to Aoife Murray for keeping them in the game, with some brave goalkeeping and good reflexes. Behind by five points at the changeover and under all sorts of pressure, Cork reverting to a more orthodox format was far more effective.
When Kilkenny were on top, they missed too many scoring chances. Their inside forward line was a threat but once Cork — ably led by Anna Geary — shut down defensively, the Cats looked beaten with 10 minutes to go. They could had a penalty when Aoife Neary appeared to be held in the closing minutes, but it was not to be. Cork had more movement in their attack and caused chaos when they ran at the Kilkenny defence. That they could raise their game to such a high level is both admirable.
This is Cork’s 25th title, one win away from equalling Dublin’s record of 26.
Joe Quaid’s Limerick made it a Munster double — and the sight of the former county goalkeeper celebrating with his players was memorable. He had witnessed a phenomenal performance from his players who will make the step up to senior with ease. The three Mulcahy sisters — Claire, Judith and the brilliant Niamh — Sile Moynihan, Michelle Casey, Sarah Carey, Caoimhe Costello, Rebecca Delee and Deborah Murphy all played their part.