It’s one of the biggest days in the camogie calendar this Saturday, with the senior semi-finals taking place in a double-header in Cork.
Here, we preview Kilkenny’s game against bitter rivals Cork.
Kilkenny come into this game as slight favourites despite Cork having home advantage in an earlier than usual throw-in time of 12.30pm. Brian Dowling’s first campaign in charge of the Noresider’s couldn’t have gone much better than it has so far, with three wins from three in the group to finish top of the table and qualify directly for the semi-finals. Dowling’s charges will be desperate to make the final for the fifth year running and will feel confident that they can overcome the side who agonisingly defeated them by a point in the 2017 and 2018 All-Ireland finals. Although Kilkenny were relatively comfortable in their group, beating Waterford, Westmeath and Limerick respectively, they know that this will be their toughest challenge to date. Dowling will be seeking a fast start from his side to avoid the sort of dogged affair that they were drawn into in their two final defeats to the Rebels. The Kittens know that they have the firepower to cause Cork trouble from the offset, having scored a total of 8-54 in the group phase of the championship. Their backs have also been in fine form this year, with only one goal conceded (against Westmeath) in their three games. Kilkenny’s main issue may be the fact that they haven’t played for three weeks and arguably have not played a top side in this year’s championship. Dowling will be hoping that his side can avoid sluggish mistakes due to a lack of game time. If they can start fast, Kilkenny will have every chance of making next month’s decider.
Cork will feel as though they will be more than capable of defeating Kilkenny for the third time in four years on Saturday. Four time All-Ireland wining manager Paudie Murray has the know how to get his team to the final, but question marks linger over whether his players are of the same pedigree as sides that have come before them. A defeat to Galway in the group phase meant that they were forced to play a quarter-final, one which they won comfortably against Clare two weeks ago. That extra game may be an advantage in keeping Murray’s players sharp and focused for Saturday’s game. Since losing to Kilkenny in the 2016 final, Cork have had the upper hand in this rivalry and will not be short in self-belief come 12.30pm. A victory for the Leesider’s is certainly well within reason. They will hope that they can keep the game tight coming into the last quarter and expose the possibility that Kilkenny have a mental barrier in defeating Cork in a close encounter.
While Cork look set to be up to the pace from the start due to their more difficult route to this stage, the fresh voice of Brian Dowling seems to have been very beneficial in helping Kilkenny return to their best in 2020. If they play as well as they can, Kilkenny should prove too strong for the home side at lunchtime on Saturday.