Amy: 'No room for weak links'
AIB All-Ireland senior club final preview: Cardiff says local campaign improved team’s physicality
As one of the handful of St. Martin's players with recent experience of camogie at the highest level, Amy Cardiff is better placed than most to give an opinion on the strength at the upper end of the club game, compared to quality seen in inter-county competitions.
'In my experience, the higher end teams like Kilkenny and Cork in the county scene are a different kind of breed, they are at a new level that everyone wants to be at,' she said.
'But, apart from that, you are not going to get anywhere in the club championship if you don't have 15 good players. There is no room for weak spots, there is no room for weak links, you need a good team, there is no hiding once you get out of the county.
'You are not going to get to an All-Ireland semi-final if you don't have a panel of players. I think any team we've met so far, they've really stepped up to the mark and there's a lot of talent here at the club level.
'I think that it would be up there competing with the county standard, it might not be completely there but it's definitely there or thereabouts.'
While the standard of play at this level is high, Cardiff pinpointed a certain kind of improvement as key to her side's rise up the ladder.
'One thing we really had to improve on this year was our physicality,' she stated. 'We're a fast, nippy, skilful team but I think the Wexford championship definitely helped us improve on our physicality.
'In last year's campaign we hadn't beaten Oulart, that was a new thing for us going into this year's county final - we actually haven't beaten this team before, we need to go in and be just as physical as them.'
Cardiff also pinpointed belief as an important additive, as was evident in St. Martin's win against Thomastown. 'They actually came within a point of us in the second-half and the heart and desire we showed to actually pull away at the end of the match [was huge].
'This year was maybe the first year we believed we could do that when maybe other years we would have been "well, we've lost it now" kind of thing. There is a real difference in the team, we really believe we can win and in that Thomastown match that's what happened.'
Something that might stand to St. Martin's in the final is how their semi-final with Inniscarra went, particularly in the first-half. Cardiff explained that anxiety got in the way but they were able to overcome their predicament and drive on.
'I think maybe a big factor in the semi-final was nerves, we were a bit rushed in the warm-up, we were kind of a bit all over the place, it was so obvious that everyone was just so nervous and I think it showed in the first-half.
'We were kind of throwing away chances, we had all possession but we kind of went in at half-time and gathered ourselves. [We knew] even after throwing away all those chances we are still in this, we're a point up.
'It took a lot to go out there, playing into a big wind. It might not have been the best hurling to watch but we took it to a new level in terms of desire and workrate, there was two or three Martin's girls in on every ruck trying to win that ball and I think that was the difference in the end.'
Slaughtneil will be a different test, one Cardiff and her team don't know a huge amount about, however, the regular on the Wexford Senior team knows a little of what to expect.
'We've never come across them before, in terms of practice matches and things like that. They are a physical team from what we've heard, probably along the same lines as someone like Rathnure.'They obviously are going to have top-class players all over the pitch, it's not like they are going for three-in-a-row for no reason. You know they are going to bring a challenge on the day, at the moment we are just trying to focus on us and our game.'
Winning would mean a lot for Cardiff and her team-mates but she believes it could mean even more for some of those not on the pitch on Sunday.
'It doesn't just mean something special to the players and management, it goes so much further than that, the whole parish has really gotten behind us, they just show that they believe in us, that makes all the difference.
'Maybe when some people around the county didn't think we were good enough or we weren't strong or physical enough, this whole parish has always been behind us. Some of them, it will probably mean more to them than it will some of the players.
'They have been with this club for their whole lives so it's more than just the team, it's a parish thing, it's going to mean so much to everyone at the end of the day so hopefully we'll be able to do it.'