AUGUST 17th, 2019 is a date etched in Linda Collins’ mind – but not for the right reasons.
The Gaelic Grounds in Limerick played host to a Liberty Insurance All-Ireland camogie championship semi-final between Cork and Galway that afternoon. It was the day the Connacht side shocked the reigning All-Ireland champions 0-14 to 1-13 before going on to defeat Kilkenny and claim their first senior crown in six years.
As unexpected as it was gut-wrenching, Cork could never have envisaged having to wait so long for an opportunity to atone for that defeat.
It has been a long and Covid-induced wait for another crack off the title-holders in the camogie championship. The time has come, as Cork travel to Pearse Stadium on Sunday with a place in the All-Ireland semi-finals on offer for the winners.
So, are Cork looking to lay down a marker or is it just another championship game?
‘For the season that’s in it, we would love to lay down a marker alright but having said that, Galway are flying fit and they are so physical, a great team,’ Cork forward Linda Collins commented.
‘They are well able to take their scores and work the ball so well. They really are flying it right now. They also have played an extra game compared to us heading into this weekend.
‘For us, Gemma (O’Connor) is injured and we are dealing with a few other injuries as well. There is also the fact that we must all travel separately up to Galway for the game to consider. They are major factors. It will definitely be a tough test and we will be up against it but we will put our best foot forward and hope for the best.’
It’s worth mentioning that despite the obvious rivalry, a healthy respect exists between the Cork and Galway camps. The latter stepped in and sportingly offered to change the date of this weekend’s All-Ireland Group 1 game during the ongoing LGFA and Camogie Association fixtures debacle affecting five of Cork’s dual players.
That means Fiona Keating, Libby Coppinger, Hannah Looney, Meabh Cahalane and Ciara McCarthy are free (if needed) to participate in the Cork and Kerry football clash on Saturday before heading for Galway and their Cork camogie assignment the day after.
‘It’s a pity for the girls involved but Ephie Fitzgerald and Paudie Murray work so well together and make sure they can train and play with both squads equally,’ Collins said.
‘The issue is coming from up higher; it is the two associations that are clashing. They don’t see what’s happening at ground level which is such a pity. On paper, things might be working out but realistically, it is not okay for girls to play two inter-county matches in one day.
‘All the girls are asking for is 24 hours between games. If they could even get agreement on that much it would be a big step forward. So, credit to Galway for moving this weekend’s game and facilitating them.’
Cork got their 2020 campaign off to a positive start following a 3-12 to 1-8 defeat of Wexford. That represented an impressive score considering it was Paudie Murray’s side’s first outing.
Offaly’s failure to field a team in Cork’s championship opener coupled with a dogged Wexford effort meant Collins and her teammates had to work extra hard for their maiden victory.
‘I don’t think the score-line reflects what a difficult game that was,’ the Courcey Rovers county championship winner admitted.
‘Wexford are a strong and physical team. I felt we never really got going and things were disjointed. It was our first championship game and we hadn’t played a competitive game together since February.
‘We missed a lot of league games too due to storms and bad weather, so all things considered, we didn’t do too badly against Wexford. Missing out on playing Offaly was a disappointment as well. We were on back foot that day whereas Wexford were playing their third game on the trot.’
Despite an unsurprisingly rusty display, Cork’s merited win has earned the Leesiders an All-Ireland quarter-final berth irrespective of this weekend’s result against Galway. But victory over the All-Ireland champions would send the Rebels straight to the semi-finals, as well as a confidence-booster heading into the business end of the season, while also laying down an important marker than Cork mean business.