CORK goal­keeper Aoife Mur­ray has hailed the ef­forts of Cork’s two in­jury-time heroes to even make it onto Croke Park for Sun­day’s Lib­erty In­sur­ance All-Ire­land Se­nior Camo­gie Fi­nal.

Match win­ner Ju­lia White rup­tured her Achilles ten­don last year and then broke her foot in April, and had played lit­tle camo­gie at club or county level in the past two sea­sons.

Mean­while, Gemma O’Con­nor, who sent over a rak­ing equaliser just as reg­u­la­tion time con­cluded, was in doubt right up to the fi­nal whis­tle, al­though the ru­mour mill had it that the St Fin­barr’s tal­is­man would be start­ing de­spite not be­ing named in the team.

Mur­ray roomed with O’Con­nor the night be­fore and even taped her knee in sol­i­dar­ity with her long­time team­mate

“She did the train­ing on Thurs­day and she was mov­ing quite well so we all kind of pre­sumed that she was gonna start but we didn’t know would it be 10 min­utes? Would it be 15 min­utes? But we all felt if there was one player or one team­mate that should get the hon­our of do­ing the march and start­ing that match it would be Gemma and I think we were all very happy to give her what­ever she needed.

“When you see the work that she’s put in over the last three weeks... Just see­ing her tog out was an ab­so­lute in­spi­ra­tion. Lis­ten, Gemma’s phe­nom­e­nal.”

White is prob­a­bly the po­lar op­po­site to O’Con­nor in terms of steely-eyed fo­cus be­fore a game. Her na­ture has helped her deal with plenty of set­backs, even if the frac­tured foot this year did test her re­solve, com­ing so soon af­ter go­ing through the mill to get back from a po­ten­tially ca­reer-threat­en­ing in­jury.

“When I saw Ju­lia come on I was pretty con­fi­dent a bit of space would open up be­cause of her speed. I’m so thrilled for her, it couldn’t have hap­pened to a nicer girl. I wouldn’t ex­pect any­thing less from her.

“Ju­lia is just calm. There’s not ups or downs with Ju­lia. She’s just re­ally re­laxed the whole time. You’d worry at times, won­der­ing ‘Is she clued in here?’ Then one touch and she’s gone and you’re go­ing ‘Fair enough.’

“I’m de­lighted for her and it just shows all her hard work be­cause it was a pretty hor­rific in­jury. Any­body that’s had an Achilles will tell you it’s very hard to come back. She’s had an­other couple of knocks this year. It just goes to show any kids out there look­ing at this, the fact that she was a sub, to come on and do that in the 66th minute, she’s an ab­so­lute hero.”

Mur­ray was the epit­ome of per­pet­ual mo­tion be­tween the posts, a jack-in-the-box con­stantly pump­ing her fists, leap­ing in the air and is­su­ing ral­ly­ing cries to those in front of her.

Be­ing goalie can be tough, with few chances to crash into op­po­si­tion bod­ies to re­lease the ten­sion and pent-up fury, but Cork had re­solved to not just mean busi­ness, but to dis­play that in their body lan­guage at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity.

“You use as much en­ergy as ev­ery­one else, but we agreed we needed to show a bit of pas­sion, that last Septem­ber we didn’t show that pas­sion. That an­noyed us to a cer­tain ex­tent. It wasn’t los­ing, be­cause there’s al­ways a win­ner and a loser.

“I looked at the clock af­ter Ju­lia scored and thought, ‘Jesus, when did that hap­pen’, where did the six min­utes go. We wanted to give it a go and if we lost at least we’d hold our heads up go­ing back to Cork.”

Her fi­nal word was for the skip­per Rena Buck­ley, who has won ev­ery ma­jor in­ter-county medal in both codes with Cork from un­der­age up­wards, as well as all the ones at club level apart from an All-Ire­land in camo­gie, get­ting close when In­nis­carra reached the fi­nal in 2011.

On Sun­day, the 30-year-old Buck­ley was bag­ging a record 18th All-Ire­land Se­nior medal for the Rebels and her sev­enth in Camo­gie. She be­came the first per­son of ei­ther gen­der in Gaelic games his­tory to cap­tain her na­tive county to All-Ire­land glory – Mary Geaney was the trail­blazer with an even more unique feat of lead­ing Kerry to foot­ball suc­cess in 1975 be­fore re­peat­ing the feat with the Cork Camo­gie team five years later – and gave her vic­tory speech en­tirely in ár dteanga dúchais.

“She’s gas, so unas­sum­ing, that she’ll prob­a­bly be em­bar­rassed peo­ple will be say­ing that about her. That’s Rena. She doesn’t roar and shout, she’s very calm, but what she says she means, and that prob­a­bly hits peo­ple more than me roar­ing and shout­ing. She’s com­pletely hon­est on and off the pitch.

“What else would you want from

a cap­tain?”

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