Galway camogie is on a high and heading into its first Gala All-Ireland Senior Championship final since 1998 this Sunday when they take on Cork at 4pm in Croke Park.
Galway captain Sinead Cahalan is delighted that all the hard work has finally paid off.
“We set off last January and our aim was to get here for Sunday,” Sinead told the Galway Advertiser.
“We have done everything that we possibly can to be here. We aren’t going to leave anything behind us and we know it’s going to take everything to beat Cork. They are a brilliant side and experience is on their side as well.
“We are going to have to put in one hell of a performance, but everyone is up for it and ready for the day.”
Hunger is a key factor in motivating any team to put the hard work into delivering match winning performances, and qualifying for crucial games like Sunday’s All-Ireland final.
According to their captain, Galway are very focused.
“It’s been a long year and a huge effort. We’ve put absolutely everything we have into it and we’ve put everything else into second place and sacrificed it.
“At this stage we are totally focused on the 60 minutes ahead of us and we want that victory and that’s what we are about and hoping for at the end of the day.”
Youth and experience is generally key to any team eager on taking championship success, and Cahalan believes this has come to the fore for Galway at the right time.
“This year we have a great blend of youth and experience. We have some players in their first year in with the seniors and we have some who have been there when Galway camogie was terrible, and being beaten by 10 or 15 points in a semi-final.
“It’s a mixture of experience and youth and that’s a good sign on a team to have both. The younger players can be encouraged by the likes of Therese Maher, Áine Hillery, and Veronica Curtin, who has brought her experiences of 1996 into the fray this year as well.”
But Cahalan concedes 1996 isn’t much of a factor on this crop of players.
“A lot of the girls don’t remember 1996 too much, and all of the focus is on this year and about doing everything that they can in their might to get it right.”
And although captain by name, the 22-year-old schoolteacher says this Galway side is full of leaders.
“There are about five or six captains on this team. A lot of the time they are telling me what to do and not the other way around, and that’s the way I want it. Therese Maher has been there through thick and thin every single year for the last 11 or 12 years.
“Áine Hillery, Veronica Curtin, and Ailbhe Kelly have also been there - girls who have been there year-in, year-out. There are so many leaders on the team that it’s a case of five or six captains on the team who are giving the orders as much as anyone else.”
With Liam Donoghue as manager, alongside selectors Damien Coleman and former All-Ireland winner Ann Broderick, Cahalan is delighted to have this trio involved.
“Having people on the line who have experience themselves of the big day is a huge factor and a huge plus,” she said.
“Any advice they give, you stop and listen to it, because you know that they have been there before - maybe they have learned from their experiences and mistakes.
“Liam has captained teams and has huge experience of the big day. He was here in 2005 and Ann Broderick was a member of the 1996 All-Ireland winning team. Damien Coleman has his own experiences and also coaching experiences on the line – we know that we are going to need to do everything we can to do it on Sunday.”