All-Ireland camogie final: Linda Collins back to lead Cork’s quest for 29th senior crown

Galway, beaten finalists last year, unchanged for the final test

Cork manager Paudie Murray with his team after the semi-final victory over Kilkenny at Croke Park. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Cork manager Paudie Murray with his team after the semi-final victory over Kilkenny at Croke Park. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Senior: Cork v Galway, Sunday 4.15pm

Galway manager Cathal Murray no doubt smiled when he heard his namesake Paudie’s comments after his Cork team beat defending champions Kilkenny in last month’s semi-finals.

“Galway have a phenomenal squad,” he said. “A lot of people are going to be saying this is their All-Ireland to lose and they’re nailed on to win it. All I’ll ask from my team is to give it a shot and see where it brings us.”

As someone who has managed his county to four senior All Ireland titles, this his tenth year in charge of the team, Paudie Murray has always expected a whole lot more from his sides than just giving it “a shot”.

And while it’s true to say that he has had to do no little rebuilding the past few seasons, following the retirements of stalwarts like Gemma O’Connor, Aoife Murray, Orla Cotter and Julia White, 10 of his team were in the starting line-up for the 2018 final when they won the county’s 28th title.

Still, the team he has named for Sunday’s final includes five players making their senior All-Ireland debuts: goalkeeper Amy Lee (24), a long time understudy for Aoife Murray, defenders Laura Hayes (20) and Saoirse McCarthy (20), and forwards Fiona Keating (20) and Ciara O’Sullivan (19).

Captain Linda Collins returns to the starting line-up in place of Orla Cronin who was due to be suspended for the final following her sending off against Kilkenny. However, Cork were granted a reprieve late on Saturday night when it was announced that Cronin was cleared to play the final after the DRA decided to delay the suspension.

Galway, beaten finalists last year having won their third O’Duffy Cup in 2019, are unchanged for the final with corner-back Dervla Higgins having had her semi-final red card rescinded due to a case of mistaken identity. It was, in fact, Emma Helebert who clashed with Tipperary’s Eimear Loughman, but retrospective action cannot be taken, so the centre-back is free to play.

Higgins is the only senior All-Ireland final debutant in a hugely experienced Galway line-up, 11 of whom started in their 2019 victory over Kilkenny. Carrie Dolan and Heather Cooney, who both played in that final, are on the Galway bench after missing a chunk of the season with serious knee injuries.

Galway had the better of it when the teams last met, in June’s National League semi-final, but there were only two points in it after extra-time. This one is likely to be a tight affair too, the midfield battle especially intriguing with six-time All Star Niamh Kilkenny, the 2019 player of the year, and Niamh Hanniffy coming up against Ashling Thompson, Cork’s winning captain in 2015, and dual star Hannah Looney.

Galway captain Sarah Dervan, another six-time All Star who will be playing in her eighth All-Ireland final, will anchor a defence that could have its hands full against a gifted Cork attack which, this season, includes Katrina Mackey, aiming for her sixth All-Ireland medal, after her switch from midfield.

The return of Mackey’s twin sister, Pamela, to the Cork defence, after she took time out from the game earlier in the year, has been a major boost for the team, and if she and her fellow backs can replicate their performance against Kilkenny in the semi-final, Cork will have much more than a ‘shot’ at winning their 29th All-Ireland.

It’s 20 years since a senior All-Ireland final didn’t feature either Cork or Galway, so neither county is a stranger to the biggest of days. They’ve been involved in some epic tussles in that time, and this one might just prove to be another.

Cork: A Lee; P Mackey, L Coppinger, M Cahalane; S McCarthy, L Treacy, L Hayes; H Looney, A Thompson; C Sigerson, F Keating, C O’Sullivan; K Mackey, A O’Connor, L Collins.

Galway: Sarah Healy; Shauna Healy, S Dervan, D Higgins; S Gardiner, E Helebert, C Cormican; N Hanniffy, N Kilkenny; C Finnerty, S Spellman, A Donohue; S McGrath, O McGrath, A O’Reilly.

Intermediate: Antrim v Kilkenny, Sunday 2pm, Croke Park

Nine months after losing the intermediate final by 12 points to Down, Antrim are back again, seeking to add to the titles they won in 2001 and 2003. This time around their opponents are Kilkenny who are also looking for their third title at this grade having won in 2008 and 2016.

Both sides are unchanged from their semi-final wins, Antrim beating Galway and Kilkenny getting past Meath, the Leinster side featuring the vastly experienced Leann Fennelly at centre-half back. The former senior captain, who was on Kilkenny’s 2008 intermediate winning team, returned to Ireland last year following six years in Australia.

Twelve of the Antrim team played in last year’s final and they’ve shown plenty of signs this campaign of having learnt from that experience, not least when they beat Kilkenny by four points when they met in the group stage of the championship back in July.

Among their three newcomers is teenager Áine Magill who will be playing in her second All-Ireland final in a week, having lined out for Antrim in their draw against Offaly in the All-Ireland Minor B final.

Antrim: C Graham; C Drain, N Donnelly, M Lynn; C Patterson, C Conlon, M Connolly; L McNaughton, N O’Neill; M Kelly, A Boyle, A Magill; R McCormick, Christine Laverty, C Dobbin.

Kilkenny: S Farrell; N Leahy, R Phelan, C Murphy; S Crowley, L Fennelly, T Fitzgerald; L Hegarty, C Phelan; E Hynes, S Walsh, C O’Keeffe; S O’Dwyer, H Scott, D Quigley.

Premier Junior: Armagh v Wexford, Sunday 12pm, Croke Park

Armagh are on the hunt for their second successive Premier Junior title having beaten Cavan in last year’s final, but they come up against a Wexford side that has got the better of them in all three of their 2021 meetings, including their National League Division Three decider.

The margin of the victories weren’t, though, wide enough to leave the Ulster side doubting their ability to turn those results around.

Four of the Wexford team – Aisling Halligan, Ciara Banville, Ailis Neville and Emma Tompkins – played in the intermediate football final in Croke Park last Sunday when they were heavily beaten by Westmeath, so they’ll be hoping for a happier experience this time around.

Wexford have never won at this grade, losing three finals in the 1970s, but their second team has more commonly competed at intermediate level through the years, the winners on Sunday gaining promotion to that level.

Armagh: C Devlin; A Harvey, N Woods, S Curry; C Casey, G McWilliams, G McCann; M McArdle, L Donnelly; C Hill, C McSorley, B Murray; O Murray, C Donnelly, E Smyth.

Wexford: L O’Shea; C Jackman, A Halligan, S Furlong; C Donohoe, A Brennan, A Dunne; C Cashe, R Cooney; K Devereux, C Banville, A Neville; E Tomkins, E Codd, L Firman.

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