BY JOHNNY CAROLAN
A FAMILY tradition will be followed on Sunday as Ashling Moloney lines out for Cork in the All-Ireland intermediate camogie final against Galway in Croke Park (2pm).
In 2008 and 2009, Ashling’s sister Rachel was part of Cork sides that won the O’Duffy Cup while another sister, Shirley, served as county board PRO from 2016-19, a period which took in All-Irelands in 2018 and 2019.
Having been there as a supporter cheering Cork on, Ashling, a primary school teacher in Ballinspittle, is looking forward to getting out on the Croker turf.
‘Rachel would have trained my team, all the way up to U16,’ the Courcey Rovers star says, ‘and then Shirley took us over at minor.
‘They were obviously two massive influences and then Rachel playing with Cork – being in Croke Park, watching her, I suppose it was always the dream to somewhat emulate her success.
‘Seeing her on the big stage, I was hoping that I’d get the chance some day and, a good few years later, here we are!
‘The one thing that Rachel has said is that Croke Park is a very big pitch and to just be aware of that, but other than that the advice has been to enjoy the build-up and the occasion.
‘She has been through it before, she knows what to expect and obviously I don’t, but she said that the two weeks beforehand are brilliant and to enjoy the excitement of it all because it doesn’t come around very often.
‘It’s definitely something to embrace rather than to fear. Croke Park is the dream, not everybody gets the chance to play there so you have to grab it with both hands.’
Cork’s last intermediate title was in 2018, as part of a double along with senior victory.
It was after that that Ashling came into the panel as Cork had to start from scratch at that level.
‘You can’t play for three years after you win,’ she says, ‘so it’s the first final for a lot of us as in 2019 we had to start with a whole new panel. There are some of the 2018 girls back again too, though.’
Ashling has Courceys colleague Gráinne Hannon for company in the other corner of the Cork defence, adding to the Courcey connection to Croke Park this Sunday. Fiona Keating and Saoirse McCarthy will be on duty with the senior team.
Wins over Wexford, Meath, Kilkenny, Derry and Kildare in the group stages were followed by a one-point semi-final win over Derry.
‘Every team goes out to hope that you’d be in this position,’ Ashling says, ‘but I’ve been on the panel since 2019 and we haven’t got there.
‘You have to be realistic and put in the performances throughout the year to get yourself to Croke Park. We all know how hard it is to get to an All-Ireland final no matter what code you’re playing and you have to put in the work.
‘We met back on December 30th in wet, rainy conditions, playing our first challenge match against each other and you’re hoping then that you’ll make it to Croke Park in August and that that night will be worth it!’