Double delight for Galway Camogie
Ward steers senior and intermediate teams to All Ireland success
At last: A jubilant Galway captain Lorriane Ryan lifts the O’Duffy Cup. Photo: INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Sunday was a special day for anyone who has been involved with camogie in this county down through the years.
To win both the O’Duffy Cup and the McGrath Cup on the same day at Croke Park was especially sweet, and was just reward for the dedication and effort that both panels have put in over the past few months, and that some players have put in for many years.
It was 17 years since Galway last won the senior All-Ireland title and for manager Tony Ward and the senior panel, and the rest of the management team, Sunday was a day they will never forget.
For the record, the game ended Galway 1-9 to Kilkenny's 0-7, and it was anything but a classic. However the Galway supporters in the crowd of 15,063 were totally unconcerned by that minor detail.
Ward, who is the only person to have managed the county to senior camogie success - he was the manager in 1996 too - said all that mattered was the result.
“ We said to the girls last week that we didn’t care if it finished 0-2 to 0-1 as long as we had the two points. When you get to an All-Ireland final, the important thing is to win it.
"We have had great performances in the last few years in finals, and still came out the wrong end of the result. So the win is what we wanted."
Ward acknowledged that the game itself was more to be endured than enjoyed, but that did not diminish Galway's joy.
“It might not have been a pretty final, but we are All-Ireland champions and the O’Duffy Cup is going across the Shannon along with the McGrath Cup, which is a great achievement for us.
“The hurt of previous final defeats played a big factor. You could see it at half time. All we had to ask them at half time was to believe - believe they could win this game. It’s absolutely brilliant, and crowns a great year."
By winning the senior and intermediate double, Galway have joined an elite club, joining Cork (2002 and 2006) and Wexford (2011).
Last Sunday was Galway's third final in four years, and they had entered the game on the back of an impressive nine-point semi-final win over Wexford.
However scores were hard to come by last weekend and Ailish O'Reilly's goal for Galway just before half time was a crucial score for her side. That three-pointer, coupled with two white flags from impressive substitute Noreen Coen, meant Galway were four points up at the break, 1-5 to 0-4.
Kilkenny were rattled after that scoring burst and it was a great tonic for Galway's self belief.
The Galway defence was heroic all through, with veteran and four times All-Star Therese Maher outstanding in the half-back line while Susan Earner in goal also made some good saves.
Points from Niamh McGrath and Emma Kilkelly moved Galway into a 1-7 to 0-5 lead after 40 minutes, but they lost their way for a while then and did not score for 17 minutes. Fortunately the Kilkenny forwards found it hard to find the form they had produced in the semi-final against Cork and, with the Galway rearguard putting them under massive pressure, they hit some costly wides.
Finally, McGrath broke Galway's bleak spell on the scoreboard with her third point, and although Kilkenny had further chances to make it a tighter game, Ward's women held out for a well-merited victory with McGrath sealing a five-point win deep in injury-time.
After 17 years of waiting, it was fantastic to see a Galway senior camogie captain walking up the steps of the Hogan Stand to collect the O' Duffy Cup again. And when she was given her opportunity to speak, after hoisting the silverware, Lorraine Ryan spoke with both grace and humility and represented her teammates marvellously.
Galway: S Earner; T Manton, S Dervan, H Cooney; S Cahalan, T Maher, L Ryan (cpt); N Kilkenny, M Dunne; E Haverty (0-1), N McGrath (0-5, 4f), E Kilkelly (0-1); B Hanney, AM Hayes, A O'Reilly (1-0). Subs: N Coen (0-2) for Dunne (23); O McGrath for Hanney (60); AM Starr for Haverty (62).