Ballineen's Orla Cronin was always destined for great things, as Kieran McCarthy discovered
IT’S the easiest €10 Orla Cronin will ever make.
The Cork forward (19), who will play in her first All-Ireland senior camogie championship final this Sunday, against Galway in Croke Park, has always stood out as a cut above the rest, and the stories prove it.
The youngest in her family, and living in Knockaneady, Enniskeane, she has played camogie with Enniskeane since U8, and was on the St Mary’s boys’ hurling team up to U14 where she led the way, and was their free-taker.
Blessed with natural skill, she’s always caught the eye. Some players just have it, Orla’s one of them.
Let’s go back a few years to an Enniskeane winter camogie training session at Mathúnas handball alley in Castletown when trainer Dermot Curtin set the players a challenge.
There is a four-inch hole right at the top of front wall, and, from the back wall, Dermot offered: ‘Okay, first player who gets the ball through that hole gets a tenner’.
First up is Orla. First attempt, the ball flies through the hole, not even touching a side. Wow. It’s the easiest €10 she’ll ever make. Dermot has never seen a girl or boy repeat the feat since.
Little wonder she’s highly regarded as an exceptional free-taker. Her radar is second to none.
But those who know this talented young star are not surprised because she’s always ‘had it’.
From the Cork colleges’ U14 scene to two years with the U16s, before two seasons with the minors, the second of which Orla was the free-taker, then to the intermediates before graduating to the Cork seniors, she’s progressed through the ranks.
The daughter of Humphrey and Bernie (both from Kilbrittain), and youngest sister to Diane, Denise, Yvonne, Stephen (Erins Own hurler) and Daniel, Orla was called into the Cork senior camogie panel after completing her Leaving Cert last year in Bandon.
She listened and learned, and, as a sub, won an All-Ireland medal as Cork reclaimed the O’Duffy Cup with a win against Kilkenny.
This season, manager Paudie Murray has promoted this natural born forward and given Orla her chance, and she hasn’t disappointed in the Cork attack, as the new breed of young players make their mark – like Hannah Looney, Amy O’Connor, Leanne O’Sullivan and Meabh Cahalane (daughter of Niall Cahalane).
A second year biological and chemical science student in UCC, she’s come a long way since her Sciath na Scol days at St Mary’s in Ballineen.
The weekend after the All-Ireland Orla will be back in her Enniskeane colours when they take on Tracton in a county camogie semi-final.
As is always the way, she will lead Enniskeane’s charge (and the scoring charts), the same way she has since her underage days. Some players just have it, you see.