AFTER a long lay-off since the end of the national league, Cork camogie star Orla Cronin is happy of the opportunity to build up towards the All-Ireland series with a successful Munster championship.
The All-Ireland champions, who will be seeking a three-in-a-row in 2019, chase a second successive provincial senior title when they travel to Cashel on Saturday to take on Tipperary (4pm).
Wins over Clare and Limerick have brought Cork to the decider against the same opposition they overcame by 0-19 to 0-6 in Páirc Uí Chaoimh a year ago. Tipp did manage to make it to the All-Ireland semi-finals after that, but there Cork put them to the sword again, winning by 0-21 to 0-9.
It means that Paudie Murray’s side, beaten by Kilkenny in the league final, will be strong favourites to retain their title but Enniskeane player Cronin insists that there will be no complacency.
‘We were disappointed with the league,’ she says, ‘we didn’t get a good run as the Wexford game was conceded to us and then in the final we fell short.
‘We had a seven-week break since then so it was good to get back on the field against Clare and Limerick in the Munster championship. We got the results but there’s still a lot of room for improvement and things to work on, we know that Tipp will be tougher.
‘The Munster championship is a good way to get players ready for the All-Ireland and Tipp will want to show they are closer to us than last year and that they are in the top bracket.
‘All the talk is about ourselves, Kilkenny and Galway but Tipp aren’t too far off and they’ve had underage success. We definitely can’t go in taking it for granted.’
First called up to the Cork panel at the age of 16 in 2012, Cronin is now an integral part of the side and it’s a growing profile she’s happy to assume.
‘You definitely see an improvement,’ she says, ‘you step up more as a leader and you try to be a bit more dominant and vocal.
‘I’m still really enjoying it, definitely not getting sick of it!’
However, one notable change this year is that Cronin is out in the real world, working in the Mardyke as she takes a break from college, having completed a degree in physiology in 2018, with a Master’s in physiotherapy to come in the autumn.
While one might think that it would harder to combine work and play than when she was a student, she is enjoying the novelty.
‘It’s definitely given me a breather,’ she says, ‘it has been hard to balance things in the last few years.
‘With preparing for exams and playing in the Ashbourne Cup, things are full on with college but this year has given me time to focus and work on the physical side of things, I had a problem with my back but I’ve been able to give that attention.
‘There a bit of mental freedom too, which is always good, but at the same time I’m looking forward to starting the Master’s as well.’