By his own admission, Cork camogie manager Matthew Twomey was still trying to get his head around it all in the Croke Park auditorium as he stood in the bowels of the Hogan Stand.
His mind was full of regrets and ‘what ifs’ after seeing his side come up short in a thrilling All-Ireland final for the second year on the spin.
It was also the second successive match where his side sleepwalked through the early stages. Against Waterford last time out they didn’t score for 24 minutes. This time around it took them 20 minutes to get on the scoreboard.
“What we can’t fathom ourselves is the start again,” Twomey said.
“I don’t know, because we didn’t do it all year and to do it in a semi-final and an All-Ireland final is just unreal. And we had a couple of opportunities, that was the thing.
“Before we scored we had an opportunity for two goals but we just took the wrong option again which is criminal in games like this. We could have had two goals and Fiona [Keating] got the goal, but look . . .”
The disappointment with the start was etched on his face. Despite that, they worked themselves back level by half-time and were within touching distance of glory down the home straight.
“On the 54th minute I looked up at the clock and you are two points up and you are kind of saying, is this our day?” Twomey continued.
“And we were still trying to do the right things and then you get a break like that with the goal. They got their dander up and it was very hard to claw it back.
“Fair play to Kilkenny, they are an awesome team when they get into a position like that. We find it very disappointing because I can’t pinpoint the start again, to go 20 minutes without a score again, there’s no logical reason.
“We thought it was a freak thing with the Waterford game but I was so proud of the players, the character they showed to come back and be level at half-time.
“We remained calm at half-time and tried to bring the process into it, the second half was nip and tuck and then to go two points up you should be finishing out the game, but that’s it.”
Through a thrilling finish, the game swung back and forth. The Kilkenny goal was crucial, coming with less than two minutes of normal time to play. An initial shot was blocked and a back-pedalling Amy Lee could only bat it out. Waiting there was Kilkenny sub Sophie Dwyer to power home.
“The defence has been superb all year, the girls have been unbelievable. Anyone who got a goal earned it off us and it was just a bad break and the ball flicked up. Amy was back-tracking and it was batted out and it happened to fall to a Kilkenny player. When your name is on the cup it is on the cup,” Twomey said.
Cork levelled it up once more before Denise Gaule held her nerve to land a late free. Cork worked one more chance, which came a full minute after the allotted injury time was played. Ashling Thompson’s effort fell narrowly wide.
“I was thinking she’s the right person to have the ball, to be honest with you. If you were to give anyone on the team a ball like that it would have been Ashling. It just went wide, she had the courage to take it on and have a go and we worked a great move to get her into position but . . . it was hard,” said Twomey.
“This is the second All-Ireland final we are after losing. We are getting sick of people telling us we are losing great All-Irelands because it means nothing to us. When you look at the players I couldn’t be more proud of them. From day one when we got involved with them they have been absolutely incredible and I’m gutted for them.
“I’ll get over it and move on but I’m gutted for them, they deserve more. We got to three finals, you can be proud of that, but to lose two of them, obviously today is the one we want but we were that bit short.
Cork camogie enjoyed a fruitful year, competing in four finals across U-16, minor, intermediate and senior, winning the first two and contributed handsomely to a thriller here. But after the second All-Ireland final defeat in a row, it was difficult to find comfort.
“It is no consolation, we were told that last year [that they had been part of a great final] and we are here again. We just know what we have to do now get a flipping win.
“But the players are immense, I’m so proud of them, I’m extremely proud to be their manager. All you want off a team is to give it their all and they have done that numerous times over the years – and in my reign they have done it every game, given their all.
“We lost a few players during the years, we have a panel and I know Galway and Kilkenny are the same. They lost players but just talking about Cork, they are huge losses. We had a lot of inexperienced players out there as well who will learn massively from this.”