‘You don’t go to Croke Park to lose,’ says Dervan

"When the whistle goes at the end of the match, you either are up there or you're not." Come 6pm on Sunday evening the Galway captain Sarah Dervan will know whether she will have climbed the famous steps of the Hogan Stand to hold the O'Duffy Cup aloft or whether she will be left on the hallowed turf of Croke Park, watching on as black and amber ticker tape falls to signify a Kilkenny victory.

Unfortunately for the Mullagh star, the latter scenario is one she is all too familiar with having been a part of defeated Galway squads on All-Ireland final days against Wexford in 2010 and 2011, and most recently against Cork in 2015. But Dervan, who is looking to become only the third captain to lead a Galway camogie side to All-Ireland glory after Imelda Hobbins in 1996 and current teammate Lorraine Ryan in 2013, says this team is not going to GAA HQ to make up the numbers and highlights the epic semi-final win over holders Cork as evidence why they can finish the job off on Sunday.

"It's great to get to the final but you want to go to win it. You don't go to Croke Park to lose. Finals are lonely places in Croke Park especially when you lose. Training is buzzing. Everybody wants to be out there on the field and we all have to fight for it.

"It is definitely a belief thing we took from that [Cork win], that we are capable of keeping with the best up there. It was a very intense game where it was in the balance for an awful lot of it but thankfully it went our way. However we know we need another improvement to beat the likes of Kilkenny. They have been in the last three finals. They won the 2016 All-Ireland. They lost the last two so they are going to be there all guns blazing but it is up to us to match it."

Having played each other twice already this year, the margins are slim between the Tribeswomen and Kilkenny; one victory each by two points. For Dervan the success in the Littlewoods Ireland National Camogie League Division 1 final was important for the squad, in not only experiencing what it is like to play at Croke Park but also defeat the opposition on a day when silverware was up for grabs.

"[Kilkenny] beat us three times last year. It was nice to get the win over them in the league especially at Croke Park. I think it was important for our younger girls who hadn't played in Croke Park. Our goalie Sarah Healy, Carrie Dolan, girls like them who haven't played there, so it was great for them to play there and get the feeling, get used to it so it won't be as daunting [on Sunday] because it can be for the first five or six minutes when you go out there and you can think, 'OMG what is going on?'

"But championship is where you want to be and they came to Athenry and beat us by two points. We are looking forward to the challenge. We know we will need to have a big improvement from the Cork game but it is something we are looking forward to."

The championship defeat at Kenny Park came after a break of 11 weeks without a competitive game for Galway. Similar to the conundrum faced by Galway's hurlers until they were admitted into the Leinster Senior Hurling Championship, the camogie stars have no provincial championship in which to take part, leaving them comparatively undercooked to Leinster and Munster sides who have had gametime in their respective provinces. The four time All Star argues being able to take part in either Leinster or Munster championships would definitely help Galway's preparations for the All-Ireland series and believes having to play the quarter-final against Waterford turned out to be beneficial for the team.

"We are unlucky in one sense that we don't have a provincial championship. Kilkenny came through that [route]. They had loads of games behind them. Coming into our game we went 11 weeks without a match.

"We were lucky, in a way, that we had the quarter-final as an extra match to find out where we are and how we are really going. It was a huge wake up call for us. We knew if we started the way we did against Waterford against Cork, we would not be anywhere near them at halftime.

"We need games. You cannot replicate matches. Eleven weeks is a long time to go without a game."

With an All-Ireland final comes a lot of wishes and extra attention but also pressure. It is an aspect which Dervan says the squad are enjoying but she is contends that no player is getting carried away with the hype. "It is brilliant and it is fantastic to have people wishing you good luck. The hype is brilliant. We would love to have a big Galway support behind us on the day because it was brilliant down in Limerick and helped us get over the line.

"[But] Croke Park and all the stuff that goes with it we have to park. It is 60 minutes at the end of the day. We have to keep our heads level [because] we have nothing won yet."


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