By Daragh Ó Conchúir
Although the 3-17 to 0-5 scoreline might imply satisfaction at the implementation of a game plan, Cork manager Matthew Twomey focused on work rate as the most pleasing aspect of his team’s Very Camogie League Division 1A success against Dublin at MTU Cork on Saturday.
On a weekend when champions Galway were beaten by Tipperary by 4-9 to 1-9 at The Ragg before Clare trumped that by defeating All-Ireland champions Kilkenny 2-7 to 0-11 at Cusack Park, this was the only tie devoid of any tension.
The overall results suggest that this division could be one of the most competitive in years under a new structure in which the six teams will play each other once, with the top two reaching the final.
Caoimhe Carmody and Áine O’Loughlin scored goals in either half to help Clare see off Kilkenny, who had overturned a 1-5 to 0-4 interval deficit to lead at the three-quarter mark thanks to points form Denise Gaule and Miriam Walsh.
That makes the Clare triumph all the more worthy, as they stepped up their resistance and O’Loughlin’s goal secured the verdict for new boss John Carmody.
On Saturday, a stunning fourth-minute goal from joint captain Karen Kennedy sent Tipp on their way and Róisín Howard and Courtney Ryan also raised green flags to make it 3-6 to 1-3 at the break. Carrie Dolan found the net fortuitously from a long-distance free for a Galway side that has ladies football and AFLW legend, Cora Staunton as performance coach this year.
Cathal Murray’s crew were shorn of a slew of long-established stars but battled hard after the resumption. They could not make sufficient inroads however and sub Anna Fahie slotted a late goal to provide Denis Kelly with the perfect start as manager.
Cork have Pamela Mackey back in the fold after a year out and the four-time All-Star was just one of the standout performers as the Rebels cruised to victory.
Player of the match and team captain Amy O’Connor had a goal in the sixth minute, on the way to providing 1-6 of her team’s tally and the other Mackey twin Katrina followed up two minutes later. She would go off with a rib injury before half-time however and was sent for an x-ray to determine the extent of the problem.
That was just about the only negative for the Leesiders however and with the likes of Laura Hayes and Cliona Healy also standing out, and sub Ali Smith providing a third major, there was little wonder Twomey was happy at the final whistle.
“What we wanted off them was the workrate,” said Twomey. “There were a couple of things in the first half but we scored 2-11 and were very happy with it. We had planned to make substitutions, we brought on eight players and it is going to interrupt things but you still have to be happy with the performance as a whole.
“One thing we’re going on since we came back this year is the turnovers. We have people up there counting turnovers in the backs and the forwards and it’s nearly a competition between them. That was key and then, the next phase of that is off the shoulder. We want a player never to be under pressure on the ball, that she has an option on all sides.
“It is only the start of February, it’s the first league game but what we wanted to get out of it, we got out of it and you have to give the players credit for that.”
Dublin boss, Gerry McQuaid admitted it was a “tough day at the office” for his charges but with so many players having been unavailable to train due to club and Ashbourne Cup duties, and an increase in competitiveness in the second half, he is hoping for better things to come in the future.
“A tough day at the office but I suppose that’s the standard we have to get to,” declared McQuaid. “We’ve been back from December. We were missing a lot of players involved with TUD, UCD and St Vincent’s. Cork are a formidable force. We’ve a lot of work to do, we know that. I think of the championship team that started against Kilkenny back in July, we’d seven starters so they’re an inexperienced team but you had to come and start here.
“We were overrun in the first half but it was 1-6 to four points in the second half. At half-time we said we needed intensity. We showed them too much respect, to be honest with you. We have to be happy enough with the second-half performance and we’ve got to take that into the Tipperary game now.”
O’Connor revealed that there was a bit of tension in the Cork dressing room beforehand as they didn’t know where they were but noted the increasing attendances the Rebels are attracting as being a considerable help.
“We were a small bit nervous coming in,” O’Connor explained. “We hadn’t a whole pile of pitch sessions done together. We do have a good bank of work done but nothing much on the pitch. We played well. We stuck to what we wanted to do so overall, very positive.
“We are very hungry and determined, as we always are. We were at home as well, we wanted to get a good start and we’re very happy with that today.
“The stand was full today and you could feel that on the pitch. It is getting better, camogie players are getting more exposure. You could see the crowd of young people on the pitch, it’s very good. Lots of clubs are putting in a huge effort in Cork to get teams to matches and we can feel the benefits of it. There might be a game that’s very tight in the last ten minutes – I’m thinking of the Munster final last year, the crowd really got behind us and it does make a difference so we’re delighted that they keep coming to the games.”