ORLA Cronin feels Cork will reap the benefit of taking the direct route to the last four of the Liberty Insurance senior camogie championship.
The defending All-Ireland champions topped Group 1 earlier in the competition to bypass a potentially tricky quarter-final, and now they take on Wexford in the semi-final this Saturday in Semple Stadium, at 2pm – a game that will be shown live on RTE One.
From mid-June to mid-July, Paudie Murray’s three-in-a-row chasing Cork team played on five successive weekends, winning four of their five games, with their only loss coming away to Wexford.
Ballineen double All-Ireland winner Cronin feels that the extra two-week break they received for avoiding the quarter-finals was just what this Cork group needed.
‘It was great to go straight into the semi-finals this year instead of also playing a quarter-final, the extra few weeks gave us time to recover after five games in a row,’ explained the 20-year-old UCC student, who is heading into her third year studying Biological Sciences in September.
‘Those five weeks were great but they were physically demanding and mentally tough. There was no time to reflect on one game, see what we did well and what we didn’t do as well, because the games were coming thick and fast.
‘Those two extra weeks have helped us get our bodies and minds right for Saturday, and we’ve been able to train well and prepare for what’s ahead.
‘Last year we had a new team and it was a good thing to get an extra game, but we’re a more settled team this year and the direct route suits us more.’
That 1-9 to 0-9 Group 1 defeat away to Wexford, who struck for a late winning goal through Una Leacy, rankles with the Rebels. It was a blot on their copybook, but it’s also useful ammunition, if needed, for the battle this Saturday evening.
‘Wexford are always one of the teams that get the best out of us because they’re a very good team and the games are always competitive,’ Cronin said.
‘There is nothing between the teams, and the fact that they beat us a few weeks ago will make us even more determined. It’s a big challenge for us, we’re one game away from another All-Ireland final, but we know we face our biggest test this season against them.
‘Wexford showed huge courage in beating Tipp in the dying minutes of their quarter-final so we’re not taking anything for granted.’
The Cork forward added: ‘It was always going to be a hard championship for us because every team wants to beat the team that has won the last two All-Irelands, so we knew we would have it tough.
‘We got through the first three games pretty well and put up some big scores, and losing the Wexford game was a setback for us.
‘We always have it hard against them. Over the last few years we’ve met them three or four times, and it’s always a tough game. We bounced back well in the next game, against Limerick.’
One of the new kids on the block last year, Cronin, now in her third year on the senior panel and not yet 21 years old, is continuing to mature into an important figure on this Cork team, and the three-in-a-row can move even closer if they defeat Wexford on Saturday.
‘You won’t win a three-in-a-row by thinking of it, there are a lot of tests and challenges to get past first. It’s going to be talked about and written about, and there’s nothing we can do about that. All we can do is look to the next game and the next step, and all we want to achieve now is a win against Wexford,’ Cronin said.