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Two of big three contesting a final again and red card appeals before O'Duffy Cup heads for new home
Galway and Cork will meet in the senior All-Ireland camogie final this afternoon.

sarah-dervan-and-linda-collins Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

1. Two of the big three contesting for glory

Kilkenny, Galway and Cork have certainly cemented their place among the top contenders for the All-Ireland senior championship. Two out of these three sides have featured in every All-Ireland final since 2013, with Cork currently sitting in pole position having accounted for four wins in that period.

Kilkenny and Galway are both in joint-second with two triumphs apiece.

The Cats are out of the running after stumbling at the semi-final hurdle last month, but the big three will still have representation in the 2021 showpiece as it falls to Cork and last year’s finalists Galway to decide where the O’Duffy Cup will winter this year. 

The Tribeswomen last tasted success in 2019 and will be competing in their third consecutive final, while Paudie Murray’s side were back-to-back champions in 2017 and 2018.

“The hardest thing was watching the match back afterwards,” says Galway captain Sarah Dervan about last year’s All-Ireland final defeat to Kilkenny.

“When matches like that are close and they come down to the wire, the 2020 All-Ireland, it was the 53rd or 54th minute it came down to, and it was a penalty. You question yourself on every mistake and every ball you hit afterwards.

“It’s hard then, but you just pick yourself up, you go again, and at least you have the girls around you. We’re all in the same boat and you just try and drive on for another year.”

Irrespective of the name that will be chiseled into the trophy this year, we’re guaranteed to see another camogie heavyweight ending this season as champions.

orla-cronin-red-carded-by-referee-john-dermody James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

2. Red card appeals 

Both Cork and Galway were stung by sending-off decisions in their respective semi-finals. Orla Cronin was sent to the line after a skirmish with Kilkenny’s Grace Walsh while Galway finished with 14 players in their meeting with Tipperary when Derval Higgins was mistakenly given a red card.

Both outfits appealed the decisions, an understandable course of action to take when facing into a fixture of such high stakes against exceptional opposition. 

The Cronin incident began when Walsh crashed into the back of the Cork player while her side was advancing towards the goal. Cronin then swung the hurl in Walsh’s direction and touched Walsh’s faceguard.

Higgins’ sending off was more unusual, as it was a case of mistaken identity. Higgins was trying to carry the ball out of the Galway defence when she was held up and a scramble for possession ensued.

Tipp’s Eimear Loughman then came in with a high challenge on Emma Helebert which prompted the Galway defender to strike back in response. But it was Higgins who was summoned for punishment by referee Ray Kelly before being instructed to depart the action.

Galway successfully appealed that decision, and she has been selected to start later this afternoon.

The outcome of that appeal brings an added bonus for the Tribeswomen, due to the fact that the Camogie Association rulebook does not allow for retrospective action against a player. This means Helebert is also clear to line out today.

Cork’s pursuit on Cronin’s behalf went through a more protracted process before eventually getting the green light. Her case was brought before the Camogie Association’s hearings committee earlier this week, where the decision was upheld to impose a three-match ban.

Her appeal was then considered by the Association’s appeal committee on Friday night, but again her plea was rejected.

The Disputes Resolution Authority [DRA] was the final decision-making group who could overturn the ban. They announced that Cronin was clear to play late on Saturday night.

orlaith-mcgrath-and-mary-ryan James Crombie / INPHO Galway's goalscorer Orlaith McGrath. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

3. Semi-Final Report Cards

Galway and Cork were made to sweat for their place in the final, as they survived a repeat of last year’s All-Ireland semi-finals.

With their title on the line, Kilkenny held on all the way until an injury time winner from the stick of captain Linda Collins eventually settled their semi-final.

That score was a fitting sign off for a game which saw both sides control proceedings throughout different periods. Cork looked to be on track for victory after holding a 0-10 0-6 lead at half-time.

But Brian Dowling’s charges demonstrated their value as defending champions in the second half as they cut through the deficit before moving into a two-point lead inside the closing 10 minutes.

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Cork, however, managed to muster another rally which culminated in that decisive Collins point to reverse their fortunes from last year’s final-four battle. That result will give the Munster side great buoyancy heading into the final.

Galway also had to suffer through a tough assignment against Tipperary to earn their place in another decider.

Similar to their 2020 encounter, Bill Mullaney’s side brought a huge fight to Croke Park. Galway were just three points clear when Orlaith McGrath struck for a goal which ultimately propelled them over the line.

Tipp did squander some goal opportunities of their own however, which could have altered the complexion of the full-time scoreline. 

Aided by some good fortune, Galway were in control of that tie and will need all of that and more for the showdown with Cork.

4. Rulebook focus

The rules of camogie have triggered much discussion in recent years. Players have cried out for more freedom and flexibility with the officiating to allow for a more free-flowing game, and for the most part, their demands have been met.

The introduction of the term ‘minimal contact’ into the rules regarding physicality in the game has broadened the capacity for players to impose themselves more on the game.

The scoring averages have also increased.

While an officiating error did result in Higgins’ sending off, the general consensus from players is that the game is much more enjoyable now. This in turn, has resulted in more satisfaction among viewers 

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