Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Camogie Finals Preview

Pictured ahead of the Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Camogie Championship finals is (L-R) Galway’s Lisa Casserly, Cork’s Finola Neville, Rowena Rodrigues, Glen Dimplex Head of External Relations and Engagement, Antrim’s Emma Laverty, Sinead McNulty CEO of the Camogie Association, Armagh’s Michelle McArdle, Eva Jacques Dimplex External Relations and Engagement Manager, Kilkenny’s Claire Phelan and Cork’s Ashling Thompson Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Senior Final 

Cork v Kilkenny 4.15pm (Ray Kelly, Kildare) Live on RTÉ2 

This is the 15th meeting of Cork and Kilkenny in a Glen Dimplex All-Ireland senior final but the first since 2018, when Aoife Murray received the O’Duffy Cup on behalf of the Rebels.  

It will come as no surprise to followers that the old rivals are deadlocked on seven triumphs apiece in the seasonal climax, so whoever has their head in front on the line this time around, will have just a few more bragging rights as well as the most important silverware. 

Though Cork won their first two meetings, in 1970 and 1972 as the Rebels registered a four-in-a-row, it was all about the black and amber for a lengthy spell with six consecutive final defeats of the Leesiders, the sixth arriving as Kilkenny completed an overall seven-in-a-row in 1991. That team was captained by Angela Downey, who along with another former All-Ireland-winning skipper, Breda Holmes is a part of the current team’s backroom group, having being brought in by Angela’s twin, Ann – herself an All-Ireland-winning captain and manager. 

Linda Mellerick’s last-gasp goal to snatch victory in 1995 heralded the Reds’ comeback against the Stripeywomen in deciders and they have inflicted more late torment with the injury-time winning points of Julia White and Orla Cotter in 2017 and 2018. Cork have won five of the last six final pairings now, 2016 being the odd one out when Michelle Quilty became the first Kilkenny skipper to get her hands on the O’Duffy memorial since her manager, the aforementioned Ann Downey. 

This is the first time in more than a decade that Paudie Murray isn’t boss of Cork, one of his former lieutenants Matthew Twomey taking over and illustrious hurling manager Davy Fitzgerald taking over the coaching duties. 

The blood and bandage reached the League final but fell short to Galway, who had also proven a tad too good in last year’s All-Ireland final. They cruised through the group stages until being stunned by Tipperary in the final tie, but that didn’t impact on their direct progression to the semi-final, where they survived a huge challenge from Waterford before prevailing by a flattering five points. 

They will need to be a lot better than was the case for at least 40 minutes of that game if they are to beat Waterford, particularly in attack. Ashling Thompson had a major impact upon her introduction, while Libby Coppinger and Saoirse McCarthy also stood out and Amy O’Connor did the business from placed balls. Emma Murphy also made some big plays when brought on in the second half. 

Kilkenny remain unbeaten all season in competitive games, only failing to reach the League final on score difference after Cork’s Chloe Sigerson pegged them back with a very late pointed free from distance to nab a draw in the group. They then claimed provincial honours and manager Brian Dowling has spoken about how seriously they took that competition this year.  

They scored heavily through the group stages, before again, just losing out on score difference, this time for the direct semi-final route, thanks to Áine Keane’s stupendous equaliser for Galway in a game for the ages at Kenny Park. The rematch was set-up by a comfortable win over Dublin in the quarter-final and colossal workrate, allied with four big saves from Aoife Norris and Laura Murphy’s brilliant goal gave the Noresiders a four-point win. 

Miriam Walsh has been operating at her very best levels as the attacking focal point, while Julianne Malone’s return after a three-year absence has added class and a regular scoring return to the forward division. Katie Nolan is perpetual motion, with or without the ball, while Claire Phelan’s reading of the play and the marking of Michelle Teehan and Grace Walsh have been vital to their side’s progression. 

Both teams are missing influential figures from last year’s semi-final, when Cork edged the verdict. Orla Cronin, Pamela Mackey and Laura Collins are significant losses for Cork but Kilkenny have been harder hit, Davina Tobin, Collette Dormer, Meighan Farrell, Kellyann Doyle and Aoife Doyle all out of the loop through retirement, travelling and injury. 

But Kilkenny have the likes of Tiffany Fitzgerald, Steffi Fitzgerald and Michaela Kenneally that have capitalised on the increased opportunities, while for Cork, Méabh Murphy, Clíona Healy are Katie O’Mahony among those to have established themselves as regular first-team starters while former Down star, Sorcha McCartan has been a wonderful addition. 

Cork are in pursuit of a 29th title from what is a landmark 50th appearance in the Glen Dimplex All-Ireland senior camogie final. If Kilkenny were to prevail it would be a 15th success from 25. So even in terms of strike rate, there is nothing between the teams. Don’t expect a lot to separate them at the final whistle either. 

Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Intermediate Final

Cork v Galway, 2pm (Gavin Donegan, Dublin) Live on RTÉ2 

Both second-string teams had to survive the most intense of semi-final examinations before booking their places in the Glen Dimplex All-Ireland intermediate final.  

They had advanced directly as group winners to the last four so that might have been the expected eventuality, but Cork had already lost to Derry in the round-robin phase and so knew they would be up against it in the rematch with the Oak Leafers. 

And it wasn’t looking good as they trailed by three points entering the closing stages of a cagey affair. It was notable that Trevor Coleman’s charges reeled in the deficit with four straight points, with the equaliser and winner both coming in injury time from the stick of former senior All-Ireland winner Joanne Casey, the latter in the fifth minute of the supplementary period. 

Also significant was the impact the Rebels got from their subs, Katelyn Hickey coming on in the 44th minute to score two points, including the first of that definitive four-point stretch, while Rachel O’Shea also split the posts and was then fouled for the winner, which Casey nonchalantly provided. Rachel Harty and Lauren Callanan were prominent at midfield throughout while Lauren Homan struck three classy first-half points.  

Galway had a fairly serene progression through the group stages, when the likes of Tegan Canning, Laura Kelly, Cora Kenny and Niamh McInerney scored heavily, while the defensive unit, founded on the reliability and leadership of Ciara Donohue and Lisa Casserly bordered on impregnable. 

It came as no surprise though that Meath would provide a thorough examination of the credentials of Cathal Murray’s unit at the penultimate hurdle but they showed plenty of character as well as squad depth to recover from the concession of a second minute goal to chisel out a four-point success. 

Kelly and McInerney came off the bench to make their mark, the former scoring a vital goal, while Katie Gilchrist and Olwen Rabbitte also raised green flags. Kelly finished with 1-3, having taken over free-taking duties as well when entering the fray. The goals conceded were Galway’s first of the campaign but they will have learned far more from surviving such a challenge than in less testing affairs up to this juncture. 

It is the first meeting of the counties with the Jack McGrath Cup up for grabs since 2009, when Galway got over the line in a replay. The most recent of their three titles arrived in 2013, when they had two points to spare over Limerick, while Cork’s latest of four triumphs came in 2018 against Down. This is their first final appearance since, with Galway last in the decider in 2019, when Westmeath edged them out by two points. 

Both squads have undergone quite a transition in the meantime and will have to do without the considerable experience and ability of key operators Finola Neville (Cork captain) and Tara Ruttledge (Galway) due to cruciate injuries but retain a sprinkling of experience to go with youthful potential, and obvious strengths in each sector. One suspects this may be in doubt right to the final whistle. 

Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Premier Junior Final

Antrim v Armagh, 12pm (Mike Ryan, Tipperary) Live on RTÉ2 

Not too many were expecting an appearance in the Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Premier Junior decider to be on the cards when Antrim decided to establish a second team to provide a pathway through the senior side. 

Indeed there fears in some quarters that it would prove a deflating experience for the younger players in particular, if they were to suffer some chastening defeats. Those fears have long since been assuaged and after one of the most dramatic games of camogie we are likely to see this year, they are now a game away from gaining possession of the Kathleen Mills Cup for the third time in the county’s history. 

In contrast to Antrim, Armagh began the season as favourites, having landed the spoils for the second time 2020 and then giving best only to a very strong Wexford unit by just three points last year. They cruised through the group stages, recording facile victories over Limerick, Down and Roscommon. The fourth game was a completely different matter altogether though. 

Antrim, who were unbeaten from two games at that stage, welcomed the Orchard County girls to Dunloy and though they fell two points short in the end, the display confirmed the belief that they were real contenders. 

After an easy victory over Limerick, Antrim then faced Clare, who had topped Group 2 and it took a Megan McGarry point in the second half of a second period of extra time to separate the sides. Armagh’s path was a little less arduous though Cavan did give them a scare before a goal and three points from former Cork star Jenny Curry (née O’Leary) after her switch to full-forward broke the Breffni resistance. 

There is an added element of intrigue to this encounter in that Jim McKernan, a long-time Antrim legend, who stood down as joint manager of the Saffrons with Paul McKillen after senior status was secured with intermediate glory last season, now returns to Croke Park in opposition to his native county, and to the joint managers, Brian Kearney and Mark McFadden he knows so well.

The game will be won out on the pitch, of course, and both sides possess talent capable of turning a game. Curry has proved a significant addition to the Armagh ranks, after having two children since retiring from the inter-county game after Cork’s All-Ireland senior success in 2014 when she scored a key goal. In the likes of Ciara and Leanne Donnelly, and mother-of-three Michelle McArdle, Armagh already possessed game-changing talent and with the wealth of experience they have built up in recent years, will be tough nuts to crack. 

But Antrim are riding the crest of a wave and even having lost a couple of players to the seniors – which is their ultimate raison d’être – must know that they are not far away from what would be a famous victory in the county’s storied camogie history. Dervla Cosgrove scored 1-9 when the teams last clashed and is a real goal threat as well as being good from placed balls, having also bulged the net against Clare. Emma Laverty and Bríd Magill are others they will look to, to keep the scoreboard moving. It promises to be enthralling.