Pacy Cork attacker Amy O’Connor has conceded that Kilkenny hold the whip hand in Camogie right now, after winning the last two League titles and holding the position of firm favourites to retain their Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior crown also, writes Daragh O Conchuir.
Having known pretty much nothing only success since joining the Cork Senior squad just after her Leaving Cert, and enjoyed her fair share of it before that too in both Camogie and soccer, O’Connor has had a bit of adjusting to do.
The Rebels went into last year’s All-Ireland Final with the carrot of securing a third consecutive Championship dangling but they were completely outperformed by their traditional rivals.
They returned this year emboldened, determined to be better and skated through the group stages and Semi-Final of the League.
Once more however, they were unable to escape the Kilkenny shackles in a decider, conceding a goal before they knew the match had even begun and never really landing a blow.
Even when they got things right they were unable to make an imprint. Such as when O’Connor cut back onto her left in the second half and had a shot that was destined for the net sensationally blocked by Catherine Foley. It was that sort of day. It’s been that sort of time.
Losing the Munster Final to today’s opponents Limerick did little to improve the mood but a win over last year’s quarter-finalists Tipperary in the opening round of the All-Ireland Championship got the show back on the road.
“I suppose the League Final didn’t go our way really” agrees O’Connor.
“Kilkenny are outstanding to be quite honest with you. They’ve huge strength in depth at the moment. They’ve a huge panel and their second team would probably be as good as our first team. They’re good all over the pitch and can bring on any one of their panel to do a job for them, which is a huge bonus for them. At the moment, I can’t see anyone beating them.”
It seems a strange admission, but O’Connor puts it down to realism. That is not to be mistaken with defeatism however. That is not her way.
Having played in a European Championships semi-final at U19 level with the Republic of Ireland – she is on a soccer scholarship at UCC, where she studies pharmacy – and garnered two All-Irelands already despite just turning 21, the St. Vincent’s clubwoman has high standards.
Yet she goes as far as to place Galway alongside Kilkenny on the top pedestal, both above Cork right now. The target, she says, is to reach the knockout stages and take it from there.
She may be young but one suspects that O’Connor is not lacking in cuteness.
“Galway seem to be going under the radar too with not many people talking about them. They’re a super team and just as good as Kilkenny if you ask me. Those two are definitely the top two in the country at the moment.
“We have a bit of a chasing game to play before we catch up to both of them but we’re just taking it week by week and we’ll see where it takes us. Our goal, I suppose, is to get out of the group and see how we go.”
Limerick will travel to Páirc Uí Rinn today (2.30pm) with plenty of confidence following their recent historic success but Cork got the upper hand in the League Semi-Final and have generally done so in recent years.
O’Connor remains on message though and is taking nothing for granted.
“Limerick will be a huge test for us. They’ve beaten us in the Munster Final already this year. We’ve played each other so many times over the last number of years and it’s always a tough contest. Niamh Mulcahy is an excellent freetaker, as good as anyone in the country, male or female.”
Cork need to be wary. The game of catch-up continues.