Galwegian grit key on journey to finals

Galway Camogie manager Cathal Murray. 
Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

Galway Camogie manager Cathal Murray. Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

No matter what the results are on Sunday when Galway's intermediate and senior camogie sides bring down the final curtains on their respective championship campaigns, manager Cathal Murray will be able to look back on 2019 with great degree of pride and satisfaction.

While many managers would have had their feet up on the Sunday after winning a Liberty Insurance Camogie Championship semi-final against champions Cork the previous evening, the Sarfields man was back at the coalface in Cratloe, County Clare, overseeing another semi-final success for the intermediates against Tipperary, and the former Galway hurler says it was the aim of both squads to be playing at the showpiece event of the camogie calendar.

"[Reaching the All-Ireland final] was the goal at the start of the year. We got beaten in the semi-final last year, in the intermediate and the seniors, so the goal was to get both teams to an All-Ireland semi-final, so we are delighted to be there and we are looking forward to it. There were two huge performances against Tipperary and against Cork.

"The intermediate and seniors have been brilliant all year. They have put up a huge effort so it is brilliant to have the two teams in the final. There is a great family bond in the whole camp. We want to win both matches but that might not be possible, but it is great to have two teams there."

Like the successful 2013 vintage of intermediate and senior camogie squads, Murray took the decision to combine training, a move which has been hailed by many players in both camps in driving standards. For many, planning and implementing training sessions consisting of 52 personnel while preparing two different gameplans for two different outfits, would provide any individual with many headaches but Murray reveals that a simple approach is the best method.

"We try and keep everything the same. The training is always intense all year round. Obviously it changes to suit the different teams you are playing and you would have a different gameplan and different things you are trying to work on depending on the opposition, but other than that, we are trying to keep everything the same and not change it too much.

"It is hard to judge [how much training we need in the lead up to the final]. It is something new for us and girls are bound to be excited. It is something we are going to have to talk about and judge for ourselves. We don't do a lot the week of the game anyway, just final touches to whatever tactics you have and final touches to the gameplan.

"You have to play the opposition and not the occasion. You can get carried with banquets and parades and get carried away by everything, but at the end of the day you are going out against Kilkenny and you are going out against Westmeath and there is where the focus will be."

In the past Galway, teams may have been accused of wilting when put under pressure but a feature of both sides' journeys to Croke Park has been their positive reactions to setbacks during matches and digging out results in tough circumstances. Murray believes it is an aspect of Galway's game which has come on in leaps and bounds this season.

"It is very pleasing [to grind out results]. The girls have been doing it a lot this year. The league match against Cork earlier in in the year, Cork were back level with 10 minutes to go and were playing with a strong breeze and getting a draw out of that game and topping the group was a big confidence booster. In the league final against Kilkenny we spoke about it before, they got two killer goals, and normally Galway teams would go to pieces after that but we went down and scored two points and won the game. Against Waterford in the second half we were very, very good. Obviously the first half wasn't good but we were excellent in that second period.

"Against Cork, the last time out, they scored a goal early on. The referee blew the whistle and our players stopped playing [and Cork scored] but it didn't faze them and they went on, in the next phase of the play they outscored Cork six points to one and that was probably the winning of the game there.

"It is something we talk about. There is going to be a setback in every game and you can do nothing but react to it and thankfully the reaction has been very good so far."

And Murray, who managed Sarsfields to county senior hurling glory in 2015, hopes his senior charges will react in a positive manner after the most recent meeting with The Cats ended in a 1-13 to 0-14 defeat in Athenry in mid-June. However, he points to the victory at the end of March over Ann Downey's women as an important mental barrier that has been overcome by the Tribeswomen.

"We've been on the receiving end of a lot of beatings by Kilkenny in the last few years. They beat us in '16 in the semi-final; in '17 they beat us in the group game; last year they beat us twice, in the group and semi-final; and they beat us already this year, so they have huge psychological advantage from that regard I suppose.

"[But] it was crucial [to win in March]. It is nice to go up to Croke Park and win a game. That builds a lot of confidence in a team and a lot of belief. It is a lot easier to be going up to Croke Park, having won [that match] than having lost it that's for sure.

"They are the form team in the championship and they are huge favourites and we have an awful big challenge ahead of us but we are looking forward to it. No matter who you are playing in an All-Ireland final, you are happy to be there and you hope you perform and that the performance will be good enough."

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