BY KIERAN McCARTHY
LEGENDARY Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi once said, ‘It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up’.
Orla Cronin knows what he meant.
Those weeks after losing last September’s All-Ireland senior camogie final to Kilkenny were tough to deal with, a period of reflection and soul-searching, but the Enniskeane woman (21) and her teammates have got back up, regrouped and are more determined than ever this season.
That defeat to Kilkenny was a shock to the system. In the previous two seasons Cronin had won two All-Ireland senior titles but the Cats shattered the dreams of the three-in-a-row as they instead completed a league and championship double.
Cork were knocked off their perch by the team they’ll meet again this Sunday in the Littlewoods Ireland Camogie League Division 1 final at the Gaelic Grounds.
‘The way last year finished was a huge disappointment for myself and all the players, and you want to come back stronger and better from an experience like that,’ said Cronin, who is in her third full year with the senior panel.
‘It’s hard to take a defeat like that when you’ve put in a year’s work and trained so much for it. You think you’ve trained the right way and done everything you can so when you don’t get the result you want, that’s hard to deal with it.
‘After any loss, and especially losing an All-Ireland final, you have to think about things a little bit more to see where you went wrong and what you can do better.
‘When you lose in a big game like we did, it does make you hungrier and you can sense that this year, the determination to improve. We’re starting from scratch, just focusing on ourselves and we’re fairly open-minded too.
‘But I’m definitely after coming back more dedicated and more excited about this year, I’m going to keep pushing myself and I’m working on the little things to get better, even if it’s just a small improvement.’
Cork’s response in this year’s Division 1 league has been impressive. Cronin says that they have a target of trying to win every game and that’s on track so far; they’ve a 100 per cent record in this campaign. Wins against Dublin (1-7 to 0-4), Tipperary (2-14 to 1-12), Waterford (3-19 to 0-8), Wexford (0-16 to 0-4) and Kilkenny away (0-12 to 0-11) set-up a semi-final against Limerick that they also won, 3-15 to 0-12.
Now they face league champs Kilkenny this Sunday in the league final and it’s a chance to lay down an early marker ahead of the championship
‘I suppose it is (a chance to lay down an early marker) but you can’t forget that it’s only April, the real business doesn’t start until the championship,’ Cork star Cronin pointed out.
‘It will be a good test for us at this stage of the year, to show us where we’re at. Kilkenny are a great side at the moment, they have great players and are playing well but we’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing during the league, working hard and focusing on ourselves and see where that takes us.’
There’s a strength in depth in the Cork senior squad that wasn’t there last year, and wasn’t there when Cork turned to the bench in last year’s All-Ireland final – but manager Paudie Murray has looked to fix that by promoting players from last year’s intermediate side.
‘The competition for places was probably something that we were missing last year,’ third year UCC physiology student Cronin admitted.
‘Between the two panels (senior and intermediate) we probably didn’t have a strong enough panel on our senior side.
‘The intermediates had a good season last year and you can see now the likes of Jen Barry, Linda Collins, Chloe Sigerson coming through from that team that was in the All-Ireland final – that experience has stood to them and they’re making the step up to senior now.
‘It’s great to be able to add strength and diversity to our panel this year, you need that if you want to go places and compete for the big trophies.’