This much we know. Cork sealed their 27th All Ireland Camogie in frenetic style yesterday. God knows Julia White must have thought she would see no game time as the final ebbed into injury time. Five minutes that stretched into six. A draw seemed on the cards as the sliotar seemed to spend its time in the middle third for an eternity. Ruck, after turnover. Neither team seemed able to find the decisive space and time.
Injury time. Julia White knows all about it. In 2012 she was Cork skipper but a bout of illness meant she missed the All Ireland defeat to Wexford. An outstanding and pacy camogie player she featured strongly in 2015 as the Rebels defeated Galway but disaster struck and since then her camogie action has been severely curtailed with a torn Achilles followed by a broken foot. A few minutes here and there was all she could muster this summer.
But cometh the hour cometh the woman. Not bad going to win an All Ireland final with your first touch!
Gemma O’Connor was a the subject of a fair bit of cat and mouse before the final with a definitive announcement that the seven time All Ireland winner and nine time All Star would definitely not play in the decider. Sometimes managers do these things for their own reasons. Ann Downey, Kilkenny’s manager was not fazed. She’s been around the block often enough to know that if an opponent says a player of O’Connor’s calibre won’t play, well there’s a fair chance she will.
Ann Downey must have cursed her presence on the field when the Cork veteran hammered over a long distance point to draw the sides level when Kilkenny seemed set to edge it. Last year O’Connor’s final ended in disappointment with defeat and dismissal on two yellows. But Sunday was redemption day for the inspirational and evergreen Gemma.
Finally, we have to ask is Rena Buckley Ireland’s greatest sportswoman? Yesterday she captained Cork to that 27th title and collected her 19th Celtic Cross, going one ahead of her dual partner of times past Briege Corkery. After securing the title and lifting the O’Duffy Cup, Rena gave a superb Captain’s speech entirely as gaeilge. An outstanding contribution by an inspiring player and role model. Surely no-one will surpass her medal total?
Mention must go to the superb Cats who came out after a poor first half showing to really take the game to the Rebels, but Cork showed all their resilience to grind out the victory with those points from O’Connor and White. Player of the game Orla Cronin had been superb throughout. It was a stunning finale to a marvellously enthralling game played in difficult conditions.