Cork camogie senior team manager Paudie Murray is hopeful he can guide the Rebelettes to an historic completion of three-in-a-row All-Ireland titles this season.
Paudie, who hails from Kilnaur, which lies just a few miles north of Dunmanway, has guided the Cork senior camogie team to All-Ireland triumphs over the course of the last two seasons. Now in his fifth season guiding the fortunes of the Rebelletes, Paudie is hopeful of replicating the famous Rebel camogie team of 1972, who were the last team to achieve this rare and famous milestone. John Bohane reports.
“It would be a dream to complete the three-in-a-row,” says Paudie. It will be a hard task however and we will have to be at our best to achieve this rare honour. We are the top team in the country at present but every team will be lining us up and targeting us, as we are the team to beat. It is a very exciting period to be in charge of this Cork camogie team. I am confident that we possess the hunger, drive, dedication and ability to achieve our goals. We will leave no stone unturned in our quest to be successful for the third consecutive season. Cork have had four chances to complete this unique honour since 1972, but have failed to do so on each occasion. Our aim is to make sure we finish the task this season. It will be hard to do but we will give it our best shot and hopefully that will be good enough to carry us over the line.”
Cork ace dual heroines Rena Buckley and Briege Corkery have committed once again to the Cork ladies camogie panel this season. Cork camogie supremo Paudie is delighted to have the star duo, that have already garnered 32 senior All-Ireland medals back in his squad for the season ahead. “Rena and Briege are phenomenal athletes. I have known Briege since she was only 12-years-old. They are so dedicated and inspirational to their profession. They have great attitudes and great hunger and are big leaders in our dressing room. I am delighted to have them on board again this year. Our chances of success this year are increased by their very presence on the pitch.”
Paudie is using the league campaign in an attempt to unearth a plethora of new stars for the future, as he explains. “I have a simple formula, which I stick to every season. I always carry a panel of 29 players. I always bring along three or four new players with the specific aim of getting them used to inter-county experience. I bring them along gradually with the aim of unleashing them into competitive action the following season. I think they benefit greatly from observing how senior inter-county camogie works and by training on a full-time basis with the team. They get used to the pace and intensity. Training has been tough to organise over the last few weeks due to the weather conditions; all our work is currently being done on astro-turf pitches at present and we have yet to get out onto grass pitches.”
Paudie explains that he has a very relaxed approach to the league. “The championship is the main one for me. I have three main goals from the league campaign. My first goal is to discover new players. My second target is for the girls I brought into the panel last season to step up to the plate this year; while I want the girls in their mid-twenties to emerge as leaders on the team. I want them to take on more responsibility. If we do well in the league, well and good, if not, we move on to the main event, the championship.”
Paudie waxes lyrical about their All-Ireland final win achieved Galway in Croke Park last season. He feels it was more of an achievement to capture the O’Duffy Cup last season than the previous season, as he elaborates. “We had a lot of retirements to key players and leaders at the start of last season and we were written off by everyone. I felt we produced a very strong and controlled performance in the final against Galway, which secured a very comfortable win for us. It was a very sweet victory. The whole panel stepped it up, as did the management; we knew the odds were against us retaining the All-Ireland title. It was a really super feeling to win the final last year. Although we lost a lot of key players, new players came to the fore, which was great to see. It was great to see all the preparatory work we had done with them reap its deserved benefits. Hopefully now we can step it up again this season — we all have to show guidance and take ownership, both from a management and playing perspective.”
Paudie has assembled a very strong management team who assist him throughout the season. He is lavish in his praise for his backroom team. “I have a very strong and good management team who assist me. Their expertise and advice is invaluable. I carry around 12 or 13 coaches with me and we work very well together. Everyone has a specific role, which they carry out to perfection. I largely give them free rein to carry out their functions to the best of their ability. The girls give it everything, they are very professional in their approach, so the least they can expect and demand from us is perfection also. It seems to be a good combination so far.”
Enniskeane camogie star Orla Cronin played a key role at centre forward in the Rebelettes All-Ireland triumph last season. Paudie is expecting more from the West Cork heroine this season again. “Orla is a super player. She came through last season. As the season progressed her performances improved and she developed into a top player for us. She had an outstanding year. I think there is a lot more to come from Orla however. I think she has the potential to develop into one of the top camogie players in the country. She is a great player with a very bright future.”
At present Orla is the only West Cork player on the Cork senior squad. Paudie is confident that there will be more girls from West Cork joining Orla on the Cork senior ladies panel in the foreseeable future. “Camogie in West Cork is improving all the time. Both Clonakilty and Enniskeane have made great strides in recent years. The future is bright for camogie in West Cork. I hope to see many more players making the breakthrough in the coming years. Orla Cronin is a great inspiration for them. We have a few West Cork ladies on our intermediate panel at present who I hope can follow Orla into the senior squad in the imminent future. Libby Coppinger, Claire Sexton and Hazel O’Regan are all knocking on the door.”
Cork’s hopes of retaining the O’Duffy Cup have been thwarted by the retirement of star goalkeeper Aoife Murray. Paudie’s younger sister, who works and resides in Dublin, made the hard call to step down after serving her county with memorable distinction after last year’s All-Ireland final victory. Paudie is hopeful but not optimistic his sister will re-join the panel. “I have not spoken to Aoife about camogie or her retirement since she made her decision. We speak all the time but about everything bar camogie. We have to respect her decision. She was a great goalkeeper. As her brother I would like her to play again. It would be great if she were to finish her career with us winning the three-in-a-row. She would be welcomed back with open arms in the dressing room. At this moment in time she is not coming back, but one never knows.”
Paudie, who is a natural sports and fitness enthusiast, always harboured coaching aspirations, even when he was still playing. Following his retirement from football and hurling with the Dohenys and Cloughduv teams respectively, he guided the Cloughduv senior camogie team to three county titles. Paudie also managed his beloved Doheny senior footballers for two seasons prior to him becoming the Cork senior camogie manager. Paudie is loving life, as the manager of the Cork senior camogie team. “I really love it, especially I suppose when we are winning. It is a great feeling to lead a team to victory in Croke Park. I have been lucky to garner that feeling over the last two seasons. It is a great honour and privilege to work with such talented players as I do with the Cork senior camogie team. I am a very competitive guy and I love the fact that they are winners also. The hardest part of the job is picking a team and telling a player she is dropped. You have to be ruthless I suppose. Last season we had to drop Eimear O’Sullivan for the All-Ireland final, the year previously she had been player of the match. It is tough. Personal feelings or friendships can’t come into it. You have to go with your gut instinct and go with it. I got into coaching camogie teams when I managed the Cloughduv senior team to three county titles over a seven-year period. I love a challenge. I am not the type of guy to sit around and do nothing. I was always interested in fitness and training so it seemed a natural progression. I was going to stay on with the Dohenys senior footballers for a third year before the Cork Camogie Board approached me. I am here five years now and love it. Hopefully we can deliver more success this season.”
Paudie also retains great memories from playing football with the Dohenys. He played his underage football with Kilmichael before he transferred to the Dohenys when he was 22-years-old, as his father and uncles on both sides had previously played for the Dohenys. He is delighted he made the switch. “I have super memories of playing with the Dohenys. I was lucky that we enjoyed such a very successful period with them, winning two county titles while I was there. We won the junior county in 1993, while I had the honour and distinction of leading the Dohenys to intermediate success in 1995. We had a very strong team at that time. We were probably unfortunate that other West Cork sides were also at their peak at the same time or we could have gone farther. I have great memories. I’m proud to have played with and worn the famous Dohenys jersey.”
Paudie, who has ten siblings, enjoyed a great childhood playing football and hurling with his brothers and sisters on the family farm in a loving and warm environment. “I have super memories of growing up. We had no Sky, Ipads or computers of any sort. We had large fields, which were ideal for games and sport. Every Saturday we’d have a massive game and mark each other. With so many of us, we were never short of numbers. We all adopted a no-holds barred attitude. The games were tough but they were ideal from a competitive aspect. Aoife always ended up in goal and it served as a great apprenticeship for her.”
Paudie never attempts to mask his ambitious nature. His shortterm goals are simple “to win an All-Ireland title this year and make history in the process.” As for his long-term aims? “Possibly go back to coaching in the men’s game and be the best coach I can possibly be. I always aim to do my best and hopefully I will have a bright and successful coaching career ahead.”