NEW Cork camogie captain Linda Collins is determined to lead from the front this season.
The Courcey Rovers forward – a familiar face in the Rebels’ attack in recent years – doesn’t feel her new role will add extra pressure as Cork look to wrestle the league and championship titles off Galway and Kilkenny respectively.
‘I don’t feel any added pressure because I am still going to work as hard as I ever have and try to put my best foot forward on behalf of the team,’ Collins told this week’s Star Sport Podcast.
‘At the end of the day, camogie is a team game. Everyone has to pull together. I don’t feel a sense of pressure and I hope the other girls can learn from me, if there is anything to learn from me. ‘The thing I am looking forward to the most this season is just getting back playing camogie, working hard, training hard and having the craic with the girls before and after training. That’s what you enjoy the most about playing inter-county.’
Collins is coming off the back of a memorable club year after Courceys won their first county senior camogie championship title last season. Cork ace Collins scored 1-5 in that historic county final win against Innsicarra – and that success saw her nominated to captain her county this year.
‘Being captain of the Cork senior camogie team is never something I thought I would end up being and I am really looking forward to the year ahead,’ says Collins, who works as a teacher at Summercove National School in Kinsale.
‘Just thinking of all the Cork captains that have gone before me and all the captains I would have played under, it is a great achievement to be amongst those names.
‘Courcey Rovers put my name forward as (Cork) captain for 2021. It is an honour for me to be able to represent my club and my family. The group of girls I play with have been together over the last number of years. Bringing everyone together, after such a tough time of it last year, will be special. Hopefully, Cork will enjoy a positive year.’
The Cork camogie team returned to training this week as preparations ramp up ahead of the national league campaign that throws in next month. It’s all systems go now for Paudie Murray and his new-look management team.
‘Credit where credit is due, Paudie has put so many years and so much time into Cork camogie,’ Collins says.
‘Paudie always wants to get the best out of his team. He always wants to bring in the best people for his management set-up and constantly talks about how we, as players, can improve. That’s why Cork camogie has done so well in the past few years.
‘This year, we want to lay down a marker. Cork has a new management team with Kevin Murray in, a new strength and conditioning coach in Kevin Dunne, Matthew Twomey and Teddy O’Donovan are back as well. Paudie has put together that management team so the players want to do them justice by representing ourselves as best we can out on the pitch.’
Collins and Cork will begin their Division 1 national league campaign with a home Group 2 clash against Tipperary on May 15th before an away trip to Waterford on May 29th. Cork need to finish in the top two to qualify for the knock-out stages.
‘To be honest, you can never predict the outcome of a game against either Waterford or Tipperary,’ Collins says.
‘They are two physical teams so it is a constant battle whenever we play them. I think what will be really important because it is such a condensed season, that Cork uses not just 15 but 20 players (as often as we can). The players that will come on during those games will be vital. There is a nice little bit of rivalry there as well. Hopefully, we will be able to get off to a good start.’
Not one for looking back, Collins does admit that last year’s All-Ireland semi-final loss to Kilkenny still rankles. How much is that defeat a motivating factor heading into the 2021 season?
‘There are two sides to last year’s semi-final defeat to Kilkenny,’ Collins explains.
‘You don’t want to dwell on it too much and focus on the disappointment. We want to try and start the year afresh. On the other hand, that loss to Kilkenny is hard to forget.
‘I was talking to Libby Coppinger recently about that semi-final. We were doing a bit of analysis and still getting frustrated about losing the game. It would nearly annoy us to talk about it too much. It will definitely be a motivating factor heading into the national league and championship.
‘We knew Cork could have played better that day against Kilkenny so now everyone wants to improve. Cork camogie hasn’t been successful over the last two years so we just need to get back to training. We need to enjoy the training too but everyone on the panel wants to do better in 2021. It is a new year and we need to focus on what’s ahead of us. We need to drive on.’