Enniskeane star will play leading role after recovering from hamstring injury
BY KIERAN McCARTHY
ORLA Cronin is confident she’ll be fighting fit for Saturday evening’s Liberty Insurance Senior Camogie Championship semi-final against Galway.
The Cork star, hailed as ‘the best centre-forward in the country’ by her manager Paudie Murray, has been dogged by a hamstring injury.
The 23-year-old feels she is over the worst of it and that’s good news for Cork camogie supporters as the All-Ireland champions put their crown on the line against the league kingpins Galway.
‘It hasn’t been plain sailing but I’ll be okay for Saturday,’ Cronin told The Southern Star.
‘It’s been an up and down injury, it’s been okay and then it’s not okay. I am back training properly, which is good news.’
The injury meant Cronin missed a couple of Group 2 championship games as Cork steamrolled their way to top spot, but she was back in action for the final group game away to Waterford. Even with her left hamstring heavily strapped, the Enniskeane woman was different class. She scored 1-3 to inspire the 2-10 to 0-7 success that made it five wins from five games.
‘I got on well with it in the Waterford game. I know I had it strapped up then but I played about 50 minutes and it was good,’ she explains.
‘That was a game that was good for me mentally. When you have an injury you are just mad keen to get out on the pitch but you need to be patient. Even after the Waterford game I was still rehabbing it but it’s not holding me back any more.’
Cork will need Cronin at full tilt against a Galway team that has come through a tougher path to the last four. While the luck of the draw favoured Cork in Group 2, Group 1 was a shark tank that included Kilkenny, Galway and Limerick. The Tribeswomen finished second behind the Cats, and then came through a challenging quarter-final against Waterford.
‘If you let Galway hurl, they’ll hurl away and they’ll take their chances so we need to be really on top of our game to come through it on Saturday,’ Cronin says.
‘They won the league, beat Kilkenny in the final and they were very impressive.
‘We can’t wait for Saturday, it’s a big game and these are the ones that you look forward to. We might be under a bit of pressure, there are a few other girls carrying knocks but hopefully they will be okay for Saturday.
‘This is a good test for us.’
That’s why the final group game against Waterford on July 21st was so important for Cork – it was just the type of hard match they needed before the break of four weeks ahead of the semi-final.
‘We needed that challenge because you need to come through hard games to be ready for a team like Galway,’ Cronin said.
‘We drew with Galway in the league earlier in the year, another tough game. We were missing a few that day, including the Mackeys, but Galway showed in the league how good they are and a lot of people will tip them going into Saturday.
‘We are going to have to be better again than anything we have shown all year.’
Rewind two years ago and Cork beat Galway in an All-Ireland semi-final at the Gaelic Grounds by three points, and Cronin would take the same result again. It would mean that Cork are back in another All-Ireland final, and that would whip up even more talk about their drive for three-in-a-row.
‘After we won last year’s All-Ireland people started talking about the three-in-a-row straightaway,’ she points out.
‘We have forgotten about it, all we think about is the next game because if you take your eye off the ball for a second and think about something further down the road, then you won’t even get there.
‘We are thinking about the now, focussing on Galway and focussing on getting through this semi-final.’
To get over Galway, Cork need Cronin firing on all cylinders, and she feels she’s ready to show just why she’s rated as the best centre forward in the country.