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'Nobody should really be entitled to a position' - Cork captain on semi-final super sub role

Linda Collins hit the winning score against Kilkenny.

Cork’s Katrina Mackey and Amy O’Connor celebrate with Linda Collins at the final whistle.
Cork’s Katrina Mackey and Amy O’Connor celebrate with Linda Collins at the final whistle.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

NOT STARTING THE All-Ireland semi-final as Cork captain was difficult for Linda Collins, but she reacted in the best possible way. 

The Courcey Rovers ace arrived off the bench to fire over the winning score against Kilkenny, leading the Rebels into their first decider since 2018. 

Despite being listed to start in the semi-final programme, Collins handled the news well. 

“They were discussing it,” she explains, “but I don’t think they knew the team until the Saturday because they rang me then to tell me.

“You want to play every game you can but I’ll take whatever role. If they want me to do a similar role, or if they want me to start. All I can know is that I can perform on the pitch.

“I’ll train hard and I’ll work hard and I’ll do whatever it takes to get into the starting 15. If I don’t, that’s just the way it is and I can’t change it.” 

“For me that week was tough,” Collins says of the build-up to the game.

“I never showed it at training. I trained hard and I worked hard. I think the girls seeing my attitude to that, they all drove on as well. 

“It’s great that they were able to do it. Some people would think they were the captain and so they were entitled to a position. Nobody should really be entitled to a position. It should be the person who is working the hardest, or who is going to slot into the team and the game plan that we’re going to do.

“It was tough initially but then I was able to enjoy the build-up and the training. I wasn’t nervous because there was nothing I could do anyway. So I dealt with the negative thoughts and just enjoyed training.”

Collins was the sole sub used by manager Paudie Murray, but her impact was decisive. She was introduced on 50 minutes, shaking off the disappointment of not starting by hitting the winner in a dramatic finale. 

“I actually didn’t realise the time or the score or anything,” she recalls. “When that happened I was just delighted. I looked up at the scoreboard and was like, ‘Oh my God there’s only one minute left.’

“Once I knew what was left I felt it was the longest minute of camogie that I’ve ever played. The ball was up and down and there were turnovers like there’s no tomorrow.

“When it went over it was such a relief. Then for Saoirse (McCarthy) to get a turnover at the other end and bring it back up it was brilliant.

“So many people said that to me afterwards – ‘justice’ or whatever. That wasn’t even in my head. I was in Croke Park that day to try and win a match and make an impact.

“What was in my head running out onto the field was that any ball I get I’m going to do the best that I can with it, and I’m going to use it, I’m going to retain it, and try to make the right decision on it.

“That was what was going through my head. Make space, look for the ball, and make good decisions on the ball.

“I didn’t even realise it was the winning score at the time. It wasn’t until the girls said I got the last point. But it was actually just getting over the semi-final that we were absolutely thrilled with. I’d say the celebrations were a bit over-exaggerated but we were just back to be back in an All-Ireland final.

“And then afterwards girls like Ashling Thompson came up to me and said, ‘Linda, how are you dealing with this so well, not playing?’ She was delighted, she said, ‘You got the winning score.’ I was like, ‘Oh Jesus, did I?’

“I didn’t realise I was the last person to score because Fiona (Keating) had got the leveller and that was a brilliant score after Meghan Farrell came across to deny us the goal. So it was all go in the last 10 or 15 minutes.”

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As the Galway game looms, she’s happy to do whatever is required for the team. 

“You want to play every game you can but I’ll take whatever role. If they want me to do a similar role, or if they want me to start. All I can know is that I can perform on the pitch.

“I’ll train hard and I’ll work hard and I’ll do whatever it takes to get into the starting 15. If I don’t, that’s just the way it is and I can’t change it.”

She had the experience of starting the 2018 All-Ireland final victory and was a squad member for the 2017 and 2015 decider wins. 

Collins was named captain after her club lifted the Cork senior camogie crown for the first time in their history. Courcey Rovers nominated Collins, who scored 1-5 in the county final, for the captaincy. 

“Initially I was worrying that I would have to be like Gemma O’Connor or Aoife Murray. But I decided I’d create my own style here. There are times when I speak, there are times when I don’t.

“There are times when I perform – I’m just like anybody else. My main thing this year was getting the younger ones in and getting them comfortable, and being able to talk to me and ask me questions, and create a bit of a bond between the girls.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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