Cork overcome Galway to win 26th All-Ireland camogie title
Late goal seals yet another victory for the Munster side in one-sided final at Croke Park
Head over heels: Cork celebrate with the O’Duffy Cup following their win over Galway at Croke Park. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Everyone stands their own post. We all fight out of our own muddy trench. The main story out of Croke Park is that Cork won their 26th All-Ireland camogie title, swatting Galway away to the tune of 1-13 to 0-9 in front of a 16,610 crowd. But any good cook will tell you that to get the real flavour, you have to reduce it down, way down.
So although Cork’s All-Ireland was a triumph of the inexhaustible collective, this was a day knitted out of the small unique corners of each other’s lives. Here’s Gemma O’Connor – most people’s idea of player of the match – steering the afternoon to her own liking from the centre of Cork’s defence but barely able to talk afterwards as she dedicated the win to her mother who is fighting cancer.
Here’s Briege Corkery and Rena Buckley, both of them picking up their 15th All-Ireland medals between football and camogie, drawing level in the process with Kathleen Mills as the most decorated players in the history of Gaelic games.
They’ll be back here in a fortnight with the Cork footballers looking to make it 16. Neither of them are yet 29.
Floating somewhere above them all, here’s Aisling Thompson, the Cork captain.
For much of the summer, Thompson was the best known camogie player in Ireland because of her openness in talking about her own depression and the suicide of her best friend and partner.
In a life of indefinable struggle, camogie has been something concrete right the way along, the difference between the dark and the light.
As she walked up the steps of the Hogan Stand to collect the cup, she could barely feel her feet underneath her. When she went to put words on it afterwards, she found poetry that had reporters who write for a living staring at their shoes in envy.
“Yeah, I was just kind of . . . it felt a bit like there was no one around me, you know that kind of way? I felt just so isolated, in a good way. I felt like this is my stepping stone, this is my path to glory, my path to heaven. It was like I was taking the steps to heaven on my own. It was most certainly not that way because I took those steps with 30 players and our management and I just can’t thank them enough.
“It’s a dream, it’s a dream come true. It puts the icing on my career and I’m still just so speechless. It’s everything I’ve worked for. For everything that I’ve been through in my own life, that kind of tops it for me. It makes everything so much more worth it.”
It was a one-sided final, a few post-half-time skirmishes aside. Cork should really have taken care of business well before half-time but their game plan was conservative and their use of a sweeper robbed them of the extra forward that might have pushed the game out of Galway’s reach.
Thompson and O’Connor were a steel fence around the middle and with Orla Cotter icing her frees at will, they had access to a gear Galway couldn’t find. All the same, Galway were able to stay in touch through the flawless striking of Niamh McGrath and the half-time scoreline of 0-8 to 0-4 meant this was more of a contest than it deserved to be.
And when McGrath came out to pot three more exquisite frees after the restart, it looked for a while like Cork might come to regret not having cut loose when they were in top.
Going into the last quarter, Galway were only two points down and in a game of scratchy goalkeeping, there was always a chance that one high ball into the Cork square could catch them out.
“We knew their purple patch would come and we knew it would be in those first 10 minutes,” said Thompson.
“But I suppose that’s the difference between Cork camogie and everyone else – when the going gets tough, who’s going to throw in the towel first? It certainly wasn’t us.”
Enter Corkery. The dual hero had been quiet all afternoon but on 53 minutes, she decided enough was enough. After robbing Shauna Healy 35 metres out, she bore down on Galway goalkeeper Susan Earner like a bowling ball circling in on a lone skittle. Though her finish wasn’t overly crisp, it was past Earner before she could move. Game done, game dusted.
“We made a few mistakes,” shrugged Thompson. “But I mentioned in an article during the week that it’s how we recover from mistakes that’s going to be the big thing. If you can move on from your mistakes straight away, put them behind you, that’s what’s going to win the game for you. Just put it behind you and move on.”
True for sport. True for life.