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Gemma O'Connor and her Cork colleagues celebrate another All Ireland victory at Croke Park.
Gemma O'Connor and her Cork colleagues celebrate another All Ireland victory at Croke Park.

Gemma O'Connor hails Cork's composure

By Daragh O'Conchuir

It was eerie how similarly events unfolded to 12 months ago. Okay, it wasn’t two points turning around a one-point deficit but it was an injury-time winner nonetheless.

Agony for Kilkenny, frayed nerves but ultimate glory for Cork. Instead of Julia White it was Orla Cotter landing the killer blow – a stunning free from the left wing, 60m out in the 61st minute. 

“I don’t know why we do it to ourselves, a point in it” said Gemma O’Connor, who was getting her hand on a ninth Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Camogie medal.

“At half-time the message was to keep our composure. Beforehand you’re trying to get yourself riled up, to get into the right frame of mind, the fighting attitude - then at half time it’s all about ‘This is where we are now and we need to be composed.’ It’s no time to lose your head.

“We knew it’d be a tight game from start to finish. The Championship has been quite ope,n but we knew the Final would be so defensive, we don’t give each other an inch. I don’t know what way it is to look at, sometimes you’d wish the play would open up a small bit, but you just want to win at all costs, that’s the bottom line.

“(When I was) Starting out it was 15 on 15, you minded your own patch, your own player, and you capitalised on what happened next. Now it’s so tactical… I wouldn’t say it’s a negative thing, Kilkenny are at it, the lads’ footballers are at it, the hurlers are at it, it’s about outsmarting your opponent.

“But at the end of the day it’s also about the player on the ball, the decision maker, and the players making the run to create space, running to the corner flag so the ball can be hit into space.

Kilkenny manager Ann Downey pictured at Croke Park on Sunday.
Kilkenny manager Ann Downey pictured at Croke Park on Sunday.

“It’s about smart people making smart decisions. This game is all about decision making.

“You asked why it’s so tight between Cork and Kilkenny - I think it’s because we’re so similar, the teams are physical, skilful, the panels show extreme skill, talent and workrate. That’s why there’s so little between us.”

The last two years though, it is Kilkenny on the wrong side of the point, even if they were on the right one in 2016. Their manager Ann Downey agreed with O’Connor on the tactical evolution that has occurred in Camogie and the inevitable caginess that results.

“That’s the nature of the game that both of us are playing” said Downey. “You have to look at the strengths of both teams – ours against theirs and try to stop them playing their game as they try to stop us playing ours.

“For the last three years, really there has been nothing between us, a point in every game we’ve played. The standard of Camogie has improved but for us today, our standard was probably only at 80 per cent. We had to get it up to 100 per cent to get over the line.”

She maintained that the hurt would be doubled from last year given that it was a last-gasp defeat once more.

“Now they go back to their clubs and you’d be hoping they have Camogie with their clubs now and it might lessen the burden for them. They’ll have a long winter now I guess. Two years in a row – they are devastated inside there. They’re just gutted.”

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