The bond is strong as intermediates prepare to embrace pressure

Laura Ward. Photo:- Mike Shaughnessy

Laura Ward. Photo:- Mike Shaughnessy

When it comes to sport there is a very simple formula; a winning team is a happy team and a happy team is only achieved when the players know the person beside them will leave it all out on the pitch from the first whistle to the last.

It is bond that is built on cold, windy, rainy nights at training in depths of the November and on game days, when the team faces and manages to overcome adversity not by the simple click of the fingers by management. It is a quality which can be fostered and developed into any team between friends or strangers as Galway intermediate captain, Laura Ward, can testify.

"I suppose it was kind of a bit awkward at the start," she laughs. "A lot of us would have played against each other at club, so we were very familiar on the pitch but not personally. As the months went on we got really close as a group. We saw each other nearly five times a week so we had no other choice but to become as close as we did.

"With the intermediates, we would not have played much together so it was a case of step by step, and then the more we started winning, the more we started to believe in each other. When we managed to get out of the group and into the semi-finals, we really knew this is where we want to be, this is it, and this is our year to get there and hopefully finish it."

No more was this tight-knit mentality in evidence than the semi-final clash at Cratloe against Tipperary where Galway nicked victory thanks to an injury time point from Ava Lynskey and a goal from Niamh Horan, 40 seconds after her introduction into the fray. For the Sarsfield woman, coming through that titanic tussle will aid the squad in their showdown with Westmeath.

"That is a way you want to win games, you want to win it in the last few seconds. We know we can do that, we can rob it with time nearly up. It definitely benefits us because it was one of the toughest games of the year where we really knew we had to win it and that was it. There was no other result or else we were out. We needed to win. It was a great game to have there going into a final."

Reaching a final means the team is receiving a lot more attention. But with the increased interest and coverage, the pressure to bring home The Jack McGrath Cup also is cranked up. While keeping focus on the task at hand, Ward believes it is an aspect of the team's success which they should enjoy.

"[Croke Park] is exactly where we wanted to be in September. It is a dream come true really. We never expected to get this far in a million dreams. I think we have to embrace the pressure a bit because we are not use to getting that attention in camogie especially the intermediates. It is a lovely added touch to it all. When it comes to the day we have to push all that out the window and forget about it. We will enjoy the build up and everything that goes with it because we have earned it. But once the day comes, it is just another day, another game, and that's what we need to focus on.

"We are trying not to talk about the significance of Croke Park too much because a lot of girls have never played there before. We have to look at it that it is another pitch. I know it makes the experience amazing but it is just another pitch and it is a game we need to win, and then we can enjoy the experience of playing in Croke Park once we have it won."

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