“I’m expecting it to be tense, quick, and a lot of people on the field,” Colorado native Ralph D’Alessandro said on his way to watch Sunday’s All-Ireland senior camogie final in Croke Park.
Safe to say, he probably wasn’t disappointed.
Cork and Kilkenny faced each other once again for the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland title for the third year in a row, and with both holding a winning notch under their belt, it was anyone’s game to win.
“Sure, we’re hoping to do it again,” Susan from Cork said as she waited for some pre-match chips outside the spectator stands. Susan’s nine-year old daughter Lizzy has played camogie for five years, and has been at the All-Ireland Final for the past three. Her red and white Cork colour face paint was done on the four-hour bus ride up to Dublin.
Molly (8) from Kilkenny has been out on the camogie pitch for the past two years, and donned a black and yellow jersey in the hopes of seeing her home county relive a national win, which Kilkenny last pulled off in 2016.
Like a pendulum
Cork supporter Joanne Lynch arrived at Croke Park with her family in tow, aspiring see her county team win their second consecutive All-Ireland title. Although she was feeling confident, she predicted it would be a close game. And was she right.
The match score played out like a pendulum, swinging from one team’s lead to another. The crowd remained out of the early autumn sunlight, and homemade banners flapped in the breeze. Supporters proudly wore jester hats of black and yellow and red and white, and county-colour braids as necklaces.
One Kilkenny fan said his fellow county supporters are a little quieter than most. But the 21,467-strong crowd’s roar rippled across the stadium at every triumph and shortcoming, may have proved him wrong .
A tied score opened the second half of the match, and the crowd kept up their level of enthusiasm right up to the end. When Cork brought the score to a more comfortable 0-11 to Kilkenny’s 0-09, the stadium screen showed red jersey-wearing supporters rejoicing, waving their almost lifesize Cork-supporting teddy bear in the air.
By the last whistle, Cork managed to obtain the title ever so narrowly with a 0-14 to 0-13 final score. Helmets and hurls from both teams were strewn across the field in both celebration and defeat. The Cork team was an ecstatic congregation, while some Kilkenny players laid outstretched on the grass, staring upward.
As the crowd streamed out of the stadium, the streets seemed in jovial spirits, despite Kilkenny’s disappointment. One deflated Kilkenny supporter dashed to make a bus, but remarked, “sure look, it is what it is”, while another cohort of Cats fans chanted about sticking together.
A group of eight Cork supporters, camogie players with Cobh Camogie, said in the match aftermath that the sport is, “as physical and as intense as any male sport”. And with a match fastest ball speed of 130km per hour, it’s a fair proclamation.