The country got a proper first glimpse of it when Cork’s Hannah Looney and Kilkenny’s Collette Dormer pushed one another during the pre-match handshake before last year’s All-Ireland final.
Cork’s Gemma O’Connor was also dismissed seven minutes from time for a second yellow card offence.
Kilkenny ended the Rebels’ three-in-a-row bid and Ann Downey’s side further strengthened their status as the game’s outstanding force when defeating Cork in the league final back in April.
That game produced another headline-grabbing incident as the Cork players conducted their warm-down on the field while Kilkenny captain Meighan Farrell accepted the league cup.
Downey took a phone call from KCLR the following morning and didn’t dodge the issue when it was raised. “It just doesn’t happen, to be honest with you,” said the Kilkenny boss.
“We can’t control what the Cork people will do. You wouldn’t want to see it happening too often. We just hope that our own team would always show respect to the opposition.”
Her Cork counterpart, Paudie Murray, chose not to respond to these comments, but did remark after last month’s All-Ireland semi-final win over Galway that Sunday’s game “won’t be one for the spectators, Kilkenny play 10 behind the ball and we’ll have to do an awful lot better if we’re to have any chance”.
Downey didn’t take kindly to Murray’s description of their style of play, insisting last week, “we don’t tell our girls to get behind the ball”.
“Paudie is entitled to his own opinion but we’ll just concentrate on our game and that’s certainly not the game we’ll be playing.”
Murray believes the rivalry between the counties is important for the promotion of the game, even if he’s not overly impressed with how he has been portrayed in fostering this relationship.
“I see headlines where I said x, y, and z. If I give Kilkenny a compliment, people say I’m playing mind games. If I play them down, people say I’m a sore loser. I’m probably in a no-win situation,” says Murray.
“I think the media are looking to create rivalry because it hasn’t been there for a long time. Maybe, you might point the finger at me and say I’ve helped it along the way.
“Maybe, camogie was getting boring. I remember going to camogie matches when the Cork-Tipperary rivalry of the early noughties was there and it was good for the game. This is good for the game, too. I enjoy that rivalry. I think it important for camogie. Kilkenny enjoy rivalry as well. It is in their blood.”
Kilkenny won last year’s decider 1-13 to 1-9, with Murray claiming Cork’s preparation was a long way from the level at which it should have been.
“What annoyed me most last year wasn’t Kilkenny, but ourselves. There were things we should have controlled better. That is really what bugged me on the train journey home and leading up to Christmas. We could have handled ourselves better. I don’t think we prepared well last year. People were taking short cuts. We fattened on our success. There was no extra bit being done outside of training. We went to Dublin more concentrating on the three in a row than beating Kilkenny.”
Are they in a better place 12 months on? “Physically and mentally, yes. You could see that against Galway. We didn’t blow up under the pressure Galway applied in the last 10 minutes. We would have last year. We always pride ourselves on being mentally strong. The semi-final against Galway proved to everyone involved we have that back again. We’ll need buckets of that against Kilkenny.”
There’s also more depth to this Cork panel — Chloe Sigerson and Niamh McCarthy have both come into the starting team this season. “Someone made a point coming home from the semi-final that if Gemma O’Connor had been injured in a game this time last year, she would have been told to go up to corner-forward and stand there because we were so short of players. This year, we were able to bring in three or four subs. We owe it to Gemma and to the Cork people to deliver a performance this weekend.”