Cork manager Matthew Twomey before the Glen Dimplex Senior Camogie All-Ireland Championship Semi-Final match between Cork and Waterford at Croke Park in Dublin
Cork manager Matthew Twomey before the Glen Dimplex Senior Camogie All-Ireland Championship Semi-Final match between Cork and Waterford at Croke Park in Dublin

Cork boss Twomey praises impact of 'warrior' Thompson

By Paul Keane

A quarter of the way through the Glen Dimplex All-Ireland camogie semi-final, Cork manager Matthew Twomey was a worried man.

Cork hadn't yet scored against Waterford and wouldn't for a further nine minutes.

'I was (worried), yeah, there's no point bluffing it,' admitted Twomey. 'I know there's leaders out on the field but you're looking and saying, 'Where's it going to come from?' Because we were panicking and hitting the ball, the runs were all wrong, they were coming too deep, you were just saying to yourself, 'Who is out there that's going to turn it around?' which, I'll be honest with you, was disappointing.

'We had a meeting on the Tuesday night for a good hour and a half. We had a frank chat about it. It's probably a good position to be in going into the final now. It's back on the players in that they know what they have to do, what's not good enough. It's kind of a good situation for us if we want to put a positive twist on it.'

Cork eventually beat Waterford by five points but partly because of that near miss, and partly because opponents Kilkenny have won an All-Ireland, in 2020, since Cork were last successful, in 2018, Brian Dowling's Cats are favourites to make it title number 15 on Sunday.

Yet Kilkenny also had to come from behind to win their semi-final, against Galway, and it would be a surprise if the decider isn't a close run thing that goes right to the wire.

In that scenario, Ashling Thompson could be Cork's trump card, the ultra experienced midfielder coming on after 22 minutes against Waterford and, working in a defensive capacity, helping to turn that game in her team's favour.

It was only that morning that she learned she had been cleared of a two-match suspension arising from an incident in the round robin defeat to Tipperary.

'Ashling has been unbelievable,' said Twomey. 'I have been involved since 2014 and she has been unbelievable. She's a leader, always. And she's a warrior out on the field. When she came on, her presence alone drove us on. I think that in one of her first possessions she gave the ball to Katrina Mackey and we got a score. You are kind of saying, 'This is what we want to do' and they got a bit of confidence from that.

'I suppose half-time came at a good time for us. We readjusted them and it was kind of like, 'This is what we're meant to be doing, get on the ball, get in decent ball to the forwards, make the proper runs'.'

Next to Twomey in the Cork dugout will be Davy Fitzgerald, a man well used to big Croke Park occasions. When Twomey replaced Paudie Murray as manager last November, he realised that he needed a quality coach and after an extensive trawl came to nought, he figured that it mightn't be a bad idea to contact the former Wexford, Clare and Waterford hurling manager.

Twomey initially contacted former Cork star Anna Geary and asked her to chat with Fitzgerald, whom she knows through the Ireland's Fittest Family TV show, and it went from there.

It was a brave move from Twomey because he was just starting out as manager with Cork and the fear might have been that the ebullient Fitzgerald could have overshadowed him.

'I had no issue with that,' said Twomey. 'I was behind Paudie (Murray) for a long time. And Kevin Murray was probably ahead of me last year. To me, ego means nothing. When we were beaten last year, we had a good idea that Paudie was gone. I had no intention of taking the job. It was the players that came to me.

'When I saw the reaction after losing the All-Ireland final, they wanted to get going two or three weeks after. I saw there was a bit in them. For me, getting a coach as good as Kevin Murray was last year was very difficult. Then the opportunity just came, I was able to talk with Anna Geary about the possibility of Davy coming on board.

 'I'd no problem going in as number two to him or anything like that, all I wanted was to see could we be better than the Cork team from last year. We'll find out if he's after doing that for us.'

Twomey reckons that with camogie's rules coming more into line with hurling, it is becoming easier for coaches to move from one code to the other.

'And I think that divide between hurling and camogie should be less,' he argued. 'I think the rule changes and all that kind of stuff, it's invited a lot more (coaches) to come over, it's becoming a lot more attractive.'

The hope is that the final is as enjoyable a spectacle as last year's between Cork and Galway was. Liz Dempsey refereed that game and was widely praised for how she let the contest ebb and flow. Ray Kelly from Kildare has been pencilled in for Sunday's decider.

'Ray Kelly did our game against Waterford,' said Twomey. 'I thought he left the game flow. It's what everyone wants. It's what the players want, it's what the people want to watch on the telly at home. That's what people want, a spectacle.'