Davy Fitz sailing down the Lee sparked the headlines. The Cork senior camogie team had acquired one of the biggest names in Irish sport.
he welcome was warm. “We were delighted,” says Ashling Thompson. “Someone like Davy, with his hurling background, and who has all the experience in the world.”
But there was a price to pay, as Ashling quips: “Our pre-season was horrific! But it was worth it because we are now in the All-Ireland final.”
And apart from ensuring that Cork are camogie’s fittest family, it’s Davy’s people skills that have impressed.
“He’s incredible at gelling a squad, bringing them together and getting them fighting for each other.”
He’s also brought humour. Following the semi-final win over Waterford, Cork manager, Matthew Twomey, was doing his post-match interview when he felt a dribble of water down his back.
The culprit – a smiling Davy!
It was the Cork boss who brought Davy aboard. With not a worry in the world that the Clare champion would become the dominant voice.
“It’s very easy to get on with Matthew,” states Ashling. “Obviously, Davy has a big personality, but Matthew is so calm and relaxed that it’s very easy for them to gel.
“The rest of the management are the same. There’s a lot of jokers there. We’re serious when we’re serious, but it’s also very sociable. Davy’s drive has filtered down throughout the management, and all the different personalities complement each other.”
Ashling’s job also suits her sport. She’s a personal trainer. “It does complement the camogie.”
Quick feet and fast hands will be needed in tomorrow’s Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship final at Croke Park.
Cork and Kilkenny are sure to rock and roll. She is hoping for a big audience.
“We have missed the crowds in recent years. I think the quality of the two semi-finals will add to the appeal.
“They really showcased the sport. Kilkenny against Galway and ourselves and Waterford. They were incredible matches. It was the same for the final last year.
“Camogie has really stepped forward in a way I’d say that nobody expected. But the same amount of effort goes in that you see in the GAA, and it’s nice to see that displayed on the big days.
“If the game is let flow, you’ll see the talent that’s there. I have no doubt about that. And hopefully we’ll see the same tomorrow.
“Ray Kelly did a great job in the semi-final. He let the game flow. When referees are whistle happy, it just doesn’t bring out the best.
“Granted, you’ll always give out about a couple of decisions. But what you want is to see the best of both teams. The skill, speed and everything that goes with it.
“There’s more physicality in camogie now. The sport has grown so much in the last couple of years. I think people are shocked…..…even in terms of last year’s final, people were telling me that they couldn’t get over the quality, and the athletes that the players are.
“You are not going to see that if you don’t let the game flow. I think that if we can get that right in the sport, it’ll be a massive help in terms of promoting the game.”
Cork and Kilkenny is a fixture that is always full of promise.
“I have been around long enough to know what to expect from Kilkenny. No matter what obstacle they seem to face, you’ll always get the same level of effort, the same level of fight.
“We bring out the best in each other. I have a lot of respect for them as a team. I have played them more times than I can say. It’s going to be a fantastic day for sure.”
Following the lifting of her two-match suspension on the morning of the All-Ireland semi-final, Ashling feels a sense of gratitude.
“I’m very fortunate that I have the chance to play in the All-Ireland final.
“It was a long three weeks with the appeals process. It was tough having to get up at 6.am and get to the Croke Park Hotel for 10.30 in the morning for a hearing, and then to go and play in an All-Ireland semi-final a few hours later.
“But I don’t like to make excuses. I put myself in that position. I have never been in that position before as a player. And it’s something I don’t want to see from myself in the future. It’s done and dusted now. And we can move on.”
Her introduction off the bench in the semi-final against Waterford proved crucial. Cork were in trouble.
“One thing I have learned as a player is not to focus on the result. I never dwell on the scoreboard because it’s something you can’t control. I like to keep things that I can’t control out of my head.
“My focus on coming on against Waterford was to just go in there, settle the ship and provide a bit of back-up.
“We didn’t do ourselves justice in the first 20 minutes, but we finished the game by coming back from a five-point deficit in the second half to win by five. That says a lot about our character, and the depth that’s in the squad.
“We know we have more in the tank, and we’ll need to show that now to get over the line. It’s been 2018 since we were last All-Ireland champions. That would be considered a drought in Cork camogie!
“But you learn a lot from your defeats. The main thing was to get back to the final this year. But unless we are pushing to get the result in Croke Park, giving it 100%, there’s just no point in being there.”