Cork camogie manager Paudie Murray insisted this week that his team didn’t build on their All-Ireland win of 2015.
The following year’s campaign became about the three in a row and nothing else. The focus wasn’t what it should have been, neither was their preparation. Attitudes weren’t right. The net result: The three in a row never materialised.
Laura Treacy was left corner-back on the Cork team which fell to Kilkenny by four points in the 2016 decider.
The warning signs, says the Killeagh defender, had been flashing right throughout the summer. Wexford had taken them to extra-time in the All-Ireland semi-final. Had Cork been right, they would have had that result wrapped up well inside the regulation 60 minutes.
“2016 flopped,” says the 22-year old. “We weren’t fit enough going into the final. I was trying to convince myself I was ready for the game when I don’t think I really was. We were trying to convince ourselves we were going well when, in reality, there was so much more in us.
“We trained hard and we said to ourselves we were training hard, but we weren’t training hard enough.
"The workrate we brought in 2014 and 2015 was phenomenal. We just didn’t end up getting that gear going in 2016. We didn’t do ourselves justice and, as a result, a load of us have regrets. I think a lot of older girls came back because of how 2016 finished. If we had won, a couple of them might have slipped away.”
Whereas last year centred on the three in a row, Sunday is about atonement. As Paudie Murray remarked in this paper a fortnight ago, there has been only one team in their heads all year.
Kilkenny and Cork, to a lesser extent, have pulled marginally clear of the pack and if they avoided each other at the All-Ireland semi-final stage, then this was always the likely final pairing.
To reserve the current order, Cork are going to have to reach a gear not yet found in 2017. Ann Downey’s Cats have won league titles either side of reclaiming the O’Duffy Cup and in championship fare, they haven’t been troubled since Cork stopped them in the 2015 semi-final.
“We just want to get the performance out of ourselves we know is in there,” says Treacy.
“Thankfully, the games have been going well enough throughout the year. Kilkenny are a super team and have been the team to beat this year. We have said to ourselves if we could work hard enough, hopefully, we’ll have enough in the bag that will come out on matchday. We want to bring the work-rate that we lacked last year.
“This year, whatever the result might be, we don’t want any regrets. Last year, there was something missing.”
As much as they’ll want to right the wrongs of last year, this is an All-Ireland they are trying to win for Gemma O’Connor. The long-serving Cork player suffered medial ligament damage during the semi-final win over Galway and so won’t feature at GAA HQ on Sunday.
Ashling Thompson is set to be named at centre-back in O’Connor’s absence, with either Eimear O’Sullivan or Julie White coming into the starting team. “Somebody has to step in and they are big shoes to fill.
Gemma is a legend of the game. I have looked up to her since I was so small. She is such a leader. She is an absolutely massive loss.
“Collectively, we’re going to have to drive it on to make sure Gemma gets the All-Ireland medal she deserves. She deserves it more than anybody given what she has been through the last couple of years.
“When I joined the squad as a 17-year old in 2012, Gemma was one of the older players who really made me feel welcome and really made me feel at home. It was no different when I broke onto the team for the 2014 championship, she was one of the more experienced players who’d always be looking out for you on the field.
“It will be a massive challenge without Gemma. It is a challenge we are looking forward to. If we work hard, the performance will come.”