Collins a walking example that no sub should be taken lightly
The All-Ireland semi-final was a strange one for Cork camogie captain Linda Collins in that, having been dropped from the team to the bench, she can't have been too happy with how it started but less than an hour and a half later, couldn't have been happier with how it finished.
Good things come to those who wait. Above all else, Collins, whose game-changing impact saw her strike the winning point deep into injury-time, taught us two valuable lessons on that eventful Sunday in Croke Park. The first of those lessons applies to supporters, applies to parents and managers and it teaches them not to under-estimate the role of a sub. The second relates to subs themselves and it tells them that, even though they're not starting, with a positive mindset, they can still make as big an impact as any starter on this game.
Naturally, Linda Collins, a mainstay on the Cork team since 2016, was disappointed when Paudie Murray told her the news but it wasn't long before she was visualising the impact she could make. Thinking about the tired legs around her. Thinking about the influence her body language will have on the rest of the team and as she now looks ahead to a first All-Ireland final in three years, look where that positivity got her and where it got Cork.
It may be slightly by default that she is the Cork camogie captain, having been nominated by her club Courcey Rovers after they won the county championship last year, but her team-first response to being dropped told of a leader who was born for that role. Rather than an insult, Collins took it as an opportunity and that opportunity she did take.
"Afterwards, Ashling Thompson came up to me and she said, 'Linda, how are you dealing with this so well, not playing?'"
— The Sunday Game (@TheSundayGame) August 29, 2021
A chat with Collins just a few days after her super-sub heroics tells you all you need to know about a player who first and foremost, wants the best for her team.
"Two weeks before the game they [management] were thinking about it. I thought, 'I've played every other game so why am I not playing in the All-Ireland semi-final?' For me that week was tough. I never showed it at training. I trained hard and I worked hard. I think the girls seeing my attitude to that, they all drove on as well.
"At the same time, I thought to myself it's great that they were able to do it.
"Some people would think they were the captain and so they were entitled to a position. Nobody should really be entitled to a position. It should be the person who is working the hardest, or who is going to slot into the team and the game plan that we're going to have. It was tough initially but then I was able to enjoy the build-up and the training. I wasn't nervous because there was nothing I could do anyway. So I dealt with the negative thoughts and just enjoyed training."
Collins is still enjoying training and now she's just one win away from fulfilling a lifelong dream. Still just 24, the chance to lift the O'Duffy Cup from the steps of the Hogan Stand will arrive earlier than she may have expected but whatever happens, whether they win or they lose, whether she's starting or not starting, this captain will take it all in her stride.
"There's three Courcey Rovers girls in our team but I guess me having been around the longest and being the oldest, even though I'm only 24, they nominated me then.
"Initially I was worrying that I would have to be like Gemma O'Connor or Aoife Murray. But I decided I'd create my own style here. There are times when I speak, there are times when I don't. There are times when I perform - I'm just like anybody else. My main thing this year was getting the younger ones in and getting them comfortable, and being able to talk to me and ask me questions, and create a bit of a bond between the girls."
"You want to play every game you can but I'll take whatever role. If they want me to do a similar role, or if they want me to start. All I can know is that I can perform on the pitch. I'll train hard and I'll work hard and I'll do whatever it takes to get into the starting 15. If I don't, that's just the way it is and I can't change it."
It's often said that allowing county champions to dictate captaincy matters is a risky business but Paudie Murray could hardly have asked for a better captain. Cork have their goal and they have their leader. Just one job left now.
"You don't go to Corke Park to lose, and you don't go to Croke Park just to participate. You want to go and you want to win."