THE All-Ireland senior camogie championship is up and running and so are Cork, even though they have yet to take the field.
A failure by Offaly to field last weekend earned the Rebels a walkover but that wasn’t even the first piece of drama to occur in this season, still nascent even though we are at winter’s doorstep. The potential of fixtures-clashes for dual players once again reared its head, though that has been alleviated for now as Galway have agreed to move their clash with Cork from Saturday, November 7th to the following day, avoiding a conflict for the five players who play ladies’ football.
It means more headaches for manager Paudie Murray, but the bottom line for him is that he is happy that there is at least a championship to enjoy.
‘You’re giving people something to aim for every weekend,’ he says.
‘That’s the key thing and it’s important to acknowledge that we’re in different times now compared to the first lockdown.
‘Back in the spring, the evenings were getting brighter and you could bury yourself into the garden and pass away the time but now, it’s dark and dreary at five o’clock in the evening.
‘There nothing else you can do only lock yourself in, so having something like this to look forward to is a real positive.’
In theory, the increase to level 5 of Covid-preparedness across the country makes things more difficult in terms of organisations, but Murray can see a positive in terms of the clarity provided.
‘The increased restrictions are probably a good thing in that they’ve taken extra risk out of the training,’ he says.
‘It’s probably safer now, with the extra regulations, than what it was two or three weeks ago. People going back to college was, to me, quite scary. They might be minding themselves but they could be sharing a house with six or seven people – what are they up to?
‘Now, with all of these restrictions in, I actually feel far more comfortable.’
That said, being bound by various guidelines for organising training sessions isn’t a bag of laughs.
‘They’re a nightmare, to be honest,’ Murray says.
‘There are a couple of things. First of all, we have to ask around for grounds every week – this week, we trained on Tuesday night and I didn’t know on Tuesday morning where that would be.
‘That’s a problem and then you’ve no use of dressing rooms or meeting rooms, so it’s very hard to sit down and have a meeting with your players and go through video or anything like that.
‘All that side of things is very difficult. Everyone is arriving at the grounds togged out and having to leave the same way. If it’s a wet night, then they’re soaked going home.
‘You’ve all that to take into account.’
The training would be easier to suffer as long as there are championship matches to enjoy, but Cork have been left waiting on that front, too. Offaly’s forfeiture might have given Cork points, but Murray would certainly have preferred to play the game.
‘What annoyed me about it was that it was Wednesday when we heard,’ he said.
‘We had spent two days trying to work out how we were going to get there and feed players and stuff like that.
‘The funny thing about it was that we played Waterford on the previous Saturday and a couple of the Waterford players were able to tell us that there was no way Offaly were going to play us.
‘There was something going on and we weren’t informed of it, is the only way of putting it.’
It means going in cold ahead of two tough games back to back over the next pair of weekends.
‘We have nothing this weekend,’ Murray says, ‘then Wexford the weekend after and a quick turnaround then with Galway the week after.
‘So we have two huge matches coming and if we win only one of those it puts us into a quarter-final, which would mean we’d be out three weekends on the trot.
‘First of all, we have a few injuries, so it’s important that we get them back and then you’re hoping that we don’t pick up any more.
‘But playing on three consecutive weekends is asking a lot.’
The best solution is to win both matches, but that’s far easier said than done.
‘Of course it is the best way to go,’ Murray says, ‘but the thing is that you’re going up to Galway to play the All-Ireland champions.
‘Looking at their team against Wexford last week, they’re even stronger, especially with the McGraths back.
‘To beat the All-Ireland champions in their own back garden won’t be an easy task but it is what it is and we just have to get on with it.’
And, while the dual problem has been sorted for the weekend of the Galway game, there could be further issues to resolve if both Cork teams go far in their respective championships. Murray feels that it always seems to be camogie having to bend.
‘I think it’s time that the LGFA gave some sort of concession,’ he says.
‘These things have been happening for a long time now and can you ever recall ladies’ football moving a match to suit a camogie match?
‘I think it’s time for them and the other people who need to take a lead on this are the WGPA, who are there to supposedly represent their members. This softly, softly approach is a waste of time in my opinion.’
There is at least the consolation that Murray and his football counterpart Ephie Fitzgerald have a good working relationship.
‘We’ve never had a problem in Cork and the reason that we don’t is because we talk to each other,’ he says.
‘When you don’t talk to the other parties, it’s very hard to get something sorted. There’s many a time I’ve got a call from people asking me to talk to Ephie Fitzgerald so that he’d talk to Cork County Board and they’d talk to their people in Croke Park rather than direct contact being made.
‘It’s a crazy situation but the bottom line is that, if people sit down and talk to each other, you get an awful lot sorted.’