Sunday 25 February 2018

Rebels out to skin the Cats

The captains for next weekend’s All Ireland Camogie final Rena Buckley, Cork and Anna Farrell, Kilkenny
The captains for next weekend’s All Ireland Camogie final Rena Buckley, Cork and Anna Farrell, Kilkenny

Diarmuid Sheehan

Next Sunday will see Cork's senior camogie stars taking to the Croke Park turf for their fourth All Ireland Final in a row looking to win back the O'Duffy Cup from holders Kilkenny.

The repeat of last year's show-piece game, which saw the Cats take the title for the first time in 22 years, will afford the Rebels the chance to exact hefty revenge on the side that broke Leeside hearts this time last year.

After seeing off perennial challengers Galway in the semi-final Cork will go into this one full of the joys of life, but they will be well aware of how difficult it is to depose reigning champions when they make it back to the final showdown.

Cork are led on the pitch this time out by the legend that is Rena Buckley who is going in search of what would be another record for All Ireland medals won. Buckley's attributes on the pitch will be vital if Cork are to win back the crown however her off field presence will be every bit as influential as she and the management team look to keep focus and calm among the younger members of the squad.

Manager Paudie Murray will also play a major role in the preparations before Sunday's throw in while also playing his part as the game progresses through the inevitable twists and turns.

Cork are going to be without some stars from previous years however the loss of centre back Gemma O'Connor to a knee ligament injury during the semi final win could be the biggest of them all.

O'Connor was having another brilliant year and was looking to be a shoo-in to contest for her 10th senior camogie All Ireland medal, but unfortunately that won't happen this time around.

Kilkenny are looking to make it four major titles in two years as they aim to retain the All Ireland after already keeping their hands on the league title they also won in 2016.

Ann Downey's side beat Dublin by eight points in the semi-final 2-11 to 0-09 without ever really dominating so there is little doubt that this side have another gear or two to go to.

Players of the standard of Miriam Walsh, Denise Gaule and Anna Farrell with Ann Dalton also likely to have a major impact here.

Cork are hardly short of stars on their side either with Aisling Thompson, Hannah Looney, Katrina Mackey and Buckley, to name just a few, all likely to have a major say in proceedings this time out.

Cork will need to improve on their semi-final display which saw them go all of 28 minutes in the second half without a score. Barren spells like this will be severely punished on Sunday as Kilkenny have plenty fire power up front which will keep adding to their tally from the first to the final minute.

Cork's defensive pack will also need to be on song if they are not to be over run but this weekend the middle third will be crucial.

There will be a big emphasis on Thompson to see what she can do in an area that will be over crowded for long periods of the game as neither side will be prepared to concede this third of the pitch.

Before the main event gets the go ahead Cork will also compete in the Intermediate final after seeing off Derry in the last four a couple of weeks ago.

Having both Cork sides on the final day will be a big boost to Cork camogie, however, all involved will only be too aware that this time last year both sides went for glory and both came away empty handed.

The Rebels will be looking to reverse that in both finals this time out.


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