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'It was funny I didn't miss it last year but absence makes the heart grow fonder'

17-time All-Ireland winner Briege Corkery made her return last night as Cork booked their All-Ireland final spot.

IN THE 58TH minute of yesterday evening’s All-Ireland senior camogie championship semi-final between Cork and Tipperary in Semple Stadium, legendary dual star Briege Corkery made her return to the inter-county scene.

Briege Corkery Briege Corkery (file pic, 2015). Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

The 17-time All-Ireland winner hadn’t donned a Cork jersey in either code in almost two years and of course, she received a warm welcome from all corners of Thurles as she came on in the dying minutes.

The Rebels had their All-Ireland final date with Kilkenny sealed by this stage but the moment everyone had been waiting for gave more reason for cheer and celebration.

Cloughduv star Corkery last played in the 2016 All-Ireland final loss to Kilkenny and later stepped away as a six-time All-Star, saying that she was no longer enjoying inter-county duties.

She never announced her retirement, and continued to play away with her club. At the end of March, she and her husband welcomed their first child, Tadhg — and four and-a-half months later, she’s got her first minutes of inter-county camogie under her belt.

“(Cork manager) Paudie Murray had been on to me even since last December. It was playing on my mind,” she told Off The Ball after the final whistle last night.

“I thought Rena (Buckley) would be back here with me and I will miss her around the place here now. But look, I took an opportunity to come back. I wasn’t too sure would I make it back or not.

“I started training with our strength and conditioning coach Mazzer in June and we were still deciding what would happen. We just made the decision to go with it and see how it goes.”

She added: “I just think I missed the intensity of it.

“I had got so unfit for a bit, you’d be after putting on a bit of weight so it was a good goal to try and get back to good intensity, good fitness. I’m really enjoying being back and it’s great to be back with the girls.

“It was funny I didn’t miss it last year but I suppose sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder. It’s nice to be back.

“Look, it’s nice to be back in Croke Park. I’ve a long way to go before doing anything but we’ll plug away. If I’m any help to the team, that’s all I want to be.”

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Corkery now has the opportunity to rejoin her former teammate and great friend Rena Buckley as the most successful All-Ireland winner in Gaelic games.

18-time champion Buckley edged ahead as she captained Cork to the camogie title last September but she announced her retirement earlier this year.

The Rebels and Kilkenny go head-to-head for the O’Duffy Cup once again on Sunday, 9 September.

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Emma Duffy

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