Cork camogie captain Ashling Thompson. Cathal Noonan/INPHO
holy grail

Sleepless nights dreaming of lifting O'Duffy Cup for Cork in Croke Park

Cork captain Ashling Thompson is set for the battle with Galway.

ASHLING THOMPSON CLIMBED the steps of the Hogan Stand last year as part of a victorious Cork All-Ireland winning team.

That experience has not diminished her enthusiasm for this year’s decider though.

Captaining Cork in Sunday’s final against Galway generates it’s own excitement with the prospect of lifting the O’Duffy Cup.

“What’s funny is I have probably thought about it since the start of the year.

“There’s nights there where I have gone sleepless, just totally engulfed in that kind of emotion of standing in the Hogan Stand lifting the cup on behalf of my county and on behalf of all the girls.

“I think we have worked so hard this year. We have fought through every battle we could possibly fight through so I think if we do win it we deserve it.

“I’ve dreamed of it a few times and to see that it could be a reality on the 13th is a massive motivator for me.”

Pamela Mackey and Jennifer Hosford celebrate at the final whistle Cork players celebrating their semi-final win over Kilkenny Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Thompson doesn’t shirk the responsibilities of leading the team.

“I love it. It kind of lets me voice my opinion a lot more, I have a good old voice. I really like it, I love being a leader,

“I love guiding them and I love when people look to me for guidance because I know I can give them proper guidance.

“Sometimes you might lose the plot or say the wrong things, but they always knows its from the heart and I mean well.

“It has nothing to do with being an individual, we are a team. Captain is just a headline.”

Ashling Thompson and Niamh Kilkenny Cork captain Ashling Thompson with Galway captain Niamh Kilkenny. Cathal Noonan / INPHO Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

Champions journeying back to a decider is not uncommon but Cork’s achievement is more admirable considering the wave of retirements they withstood since last year.

“I never doubted our team once to be honest,” says Thompson.

“I knew our potential as the year went on. We were very up and down but against Tipp and Kilkenny, we proved what kind of panel we have.

“It’s a massive achievement with the players we’ve lost . When you start out the league and you’ll have ten or 13 off the panel, then I suppose you would ask yourself the question. It was a big shock to everyone else really.”

Laura Treacy and Katie Power Laura Treacy in action for Cork against Kilkenny's Katie Power Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

New players have emerged to steer Cork to September.

“I think Laura Tracey in the full-back line definitely has become a leader, come out of her shell a lot,” outlines Thompson.

“Maeve Cahalane on the wing, you’ve Amy O’Connor who’s usually in around the full-forward line, Orla Cronin at centre-forward, everyone has stepped up.

“I’d name the fifteen to be honest.”

Briege Corkery under pressure from the Kilkenny defence Briege Corkery evades the Kilkenny defence in the All-Ireland semi-final Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Cork’s dual stars Briege Corkery and Rena Buckley have also been central to their progress with Sunday’s battle a fortnight before their football showdown with Dublin.

“It’s very tough for them,” states Thompson.

“We played Offaly in the championship and they had to go down to Mallow and play in a Munster final four hours later. They played Galway the day before we played Kilkenny so it’s extremely hard for them but they’re used to it.

“It’s a massive achievement again for them to make it to Croke Park and us to do the same, so for them to do both back-to-back this year would be massive.

“It’s an achievement in itself to make it this far.”

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