They were a depleted. They were unsuccessful in the League. And they just about squeezed through the group stage as a third place qualifier. The demise of the Cork camogie team was looking imminent before the All-Ireland Final yesterday. But they had a different script in mind.
The desire for success in Cork knows no bounds and realistically, we should have known better than to doubt their hunger. In typical rebelette style, they obliterated those odds and claimed their second successive title, their 26th in all.
And here are five amazing facts about the Cork camogie team.
The Missing 13
Jenny O'Leary, Anna Geary and Joanne O'Callaghan. Any camogie follower will tell you that this trio of players are essential assets for contesting an All-Ireland. But teams with a formula for success have a knack for replacing retirees with adequate recruits. And in Cork, they're blessed with an embarrassment of riches. They lost 13 from last year's All-Ireland winning panel, but the ever reliable conveyor belt of talent, coupled with the other panel survivors, proved to be an ideal tonic for those departures.
Has there ever been as cool a camogie captain as Aisling Thompson? Winning speech concussed and leading by example. pic.twitter.com/oGihzjF6OS
— Declan Varley (@declanvarley) September 13, 2015
Midfielder and captain Ashling Thompson was bearing down on the Davin Stand goal towards the end of the final when she sustained a heavy knock. She lay on the pitch momentarily to receive treatment and medical professionals would probably say that Thompson should have made an immediate dash to the hospital. However, not even a head injury could stop her walking up the steps of the Hogan Stand to accept the cup.
15 Apiece For Buckley and Corkery
A dual sporting career doesn't always work out and ordinarily you have to specialise in one and forget about the other. But for Cork dual stars Rena Bucklet and Briege Corkery, a life spent playing camogie and football at inter-county level has brought almost uninterrupted success. Yesterday's win delivered their 15th All-Ireland Camogie medal and they have just a two week break now before putting the jersey back on again to pursue a 10th All-Ireland title in 11 years with the Footballers. When will these athletes get some real recognition for their achievements?
Spike Island Torture
There are team building weekends, and then there are Cork inspired team building weekends. Scoring ace Katrina Mackey described the trip as 'horrendous' in the Irish Examiner last week when she recounted the punishing tasks assigned to the Cork team during their stay on Spike Island earlier in the summer. The players trekked around the island carrying rifles and sacks that weighed around 50kg and endured freezing conditions in an effort to solidify team morale. Ultimately it was a master stroke from team coach Paudi Murray.
GAA Means Family
You've seen #GAAmeansfamily trending on Twitter, but how often do you see players apply it? Cork centre back Gemma O'Connor defined this very concept when she made an emotional tribute to her mother who has attended every one of Gemma's games but was unable to attend the final yesterday due to illness. Speaking on RTE television Gemma said:
Gemma O'Connor with an emotional iv pic.twitter.com/GN1S2mTF0S
— Kevin Mc Gillicuddy (@KMcGillicuddy86) September 13, 2015
This was probably the most emotional final from a personal perspective that I'm ever after playing. Number one for Cork, who I love playing for, and ultimately for my mother who I wouldn't be playing for only for her today. She's really ill at the moment and she's at every game and every waking moment she's there and unfortunately she can't be here today. She is just an amazing woman and she's fighting so hard and at the moment and it's all down down to her
Will there ever be a more successful GAA county than Cork?