Taking the National League seriously gave Galway a pre-Championship run that allowed them to maximise strength and conditioning, which were key factors in the closing stages of Sunday’s high-octane final, according to manager Cathal Murray.
“We got a proper pre-season in which was huge, in terms of strength and conditioning and right through the league we wanted to win the big games. That belief we brought to the league final and then to the Waterford and Cork games brought us on. Victories breed confidence and confidence breeds belief. We always felt that we had a team that was good enough to win an All-Ireland and they’ve shown today that they’re definitely capable of that.
“We knew coming up that if we got a performance that we’d have a really good chance of winning this. Thank God we got that performance. The workrate was exceptional. The intensity we brought to it was huge. We took our chances when we got them and that made the difference.
“We didn’t get a goal against Waterford or Cork, so to get three today was very pleasing. The first goal was huge for us because it’s the first time this year that we’ve got a good start. To get the two goals before halftime was a huge tonic.
“I didn’t mention the Intermediate result in the team talk at half time, the girls mentioned it and stressed the importance of starting well in the second half, and we did. But the Intermediates played a key role in this victory too. There are fourteen of them who picked up a senior medal today, nice for them and my heart goes out tot he others who leave here empty handed, but they should be proud of themselves. They’ve played in Croke Park for Galway. They say you have to lose one to win one, so hopefully they’ll be back next year.
He paid tribute to the team for adjusting to the loss of Tara Kenny just over a week before the decider.
“It was tough on Tara to do her cruciate nine days before an All-Ireland final, but Teeny (Cormican ) came in and did an unbelievable job, as did Catherine Finnerty whose work rate was immense today.
“This is a huge day for Galway camogie, to win it the way the girls played, playing as a team. They have a huge affinity with the fans. We were coming up on the intermediate bus and we were passing out Galway buses all the time, it’s great to get the following. Hope the young people in Galway see this . This should be brilliant for Galway camogie. Hope we can the proper structures udnerage to develop that and realise the potential,” he said.
Niamh Kilkenny who glided through the game, scoring four points in the final, said that she could write a book about losing finals, so it was great to get a win.
“I’ve played in five All-Ireland finals and we lost three, so I could write a book on it. The management team that was put together last year have given us everything, an immense professionalism and belief. In the past, we’d let in a goal against the likes of Kilkenny late in a game and we’d hang our heads and let it fall away from us. But this team instilled massive belief in us and allowed us to focus on the positive aspects of our game and we utilised that today definitely.
“Usually in the past you find it hard to get goals against Kilkenny, but we got them today when they were needed. and it gave us a platform to build on. At halftime, we knew we couldn’t be complacent, we knew what had happened the Intermediates, and we knew there would be a purple patch in Kilkenny and that they would throw everything at us, and it came to just two points. We just wanted to keep the scoreboard ticking over and work as hard as we can.”
“It is the Waterford game that was the main change for us this year. The intensity that they brought in the first half. We learned a lot from them, stuff that we used when we went out to play Cork in the semi-final. It stood to us massively and it was a major confidence booster to beat them in the semi-final. Then having Kilkenny in the final, we knuckled down for the three weeks and it all worked out.
She paid tribute to the massive support that turned out on Sunday.
“It’s definitely the loudest when you are running out, you can see the massive support that was there, and to see all the maroon and white. It was unbelievable, and the ladies footballers are out this weekend and hope that they will have the same support.
“Since the semi-final, you’d see a lot of young girls with hurls and the jerseys. It is great to see young girls wanting to play and avoid falling out of sport. You want to keep pushing young girls out into games and keep them involved and hopefully this will inspire many of them to do that,” she concluded.
The winner is the loser who evaluates defeat the best and while much was made in the build-up to the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship Final of Kilkenny’s gut-wrenching litany of defeats in deciders, Galway have had their own close run affairs.
There was a clear sense in the aftermath that the Tribeswomen felt that some of the criticism they had received over the years for not making it to the September bash since 2015 was harsh and were clearly motivated by it.
It was also evident from speaking to midfield dynamo Aoife Donohue, that the Galway players maintained that they had suffered every bit as much heartache as their Kilkenny counterparts and they had no intention of suffering anymore.“There’s huge belief in this team” said Donohue.“
Everyone trusts each other in the group. We’ve been there. We’ve lost as much as Kilkenny lost. There are a few of the girls have lost three or four All-Irelands, we’ve been beat in Semi-Finals.“
We’ve been on the other side of it too and I think it’s about time we got a bit of credit now we’ve gotten over the line. What a savage team.”
Another clear motivation was the sight of stricken colleague Tara Kenny unable to take her place after suffering a cruciate knee ligament injury in their last training match, 10 days before what would have been the biggest day of her sporting life.
“We played a panel match last Thursday week. A ball came in between her and Ailish (O’Reilly ). Tara just slipped. Went for a scan the following day. Cruciate gone.
“It obviously had a huge effect on the group but we said we were going to go out and win for Tara and as Sarah (Dervan ) said up on the steps (in her victory speech ), she was the 16th woman who drove us over the line.
“I can’t imagine how it was for her to watch on the sideline. But that’s the strength that’s in the panel. Players come in and have an impact. Catherine Finnerty stood up, she’s plenty of legs and energy and she stayed going until the final whistle.”
Dervan was the captain but there were a number of survivors from Galway’s last triumph in 2013 and that stood to them.“There are leaders all over the pitch. Kilkenny went down and got a score, Niamh Kilkenny comes back up the pitch and throws the ball over the bar. We had them all over the field.“
“We knew we’d a good chance coming up. We beat Kilkenny in the League Final, there were two points in it Athenry (in the first round of the Championship when Kilkenny prevailed ) and we felt we didn’t perform that day.“
(Manager ) Cathal (Murray ) said if we were in the game with 10 minutes to go we’d come out the right side and thankfully that has happened.”For her part, Donohue has been a revelation as a midfielder, having won an All-Star as an inside forward.“I’ll play anywhere. I don’t care as long as I’m on the team. If that was the right place for me to play and Galway were going to win and I didn’t mind at all. I’ve played there for the club. But I’ve been in and out last year. Even in the last few minutes I went wing-forward and Ann Marie Starr came on,” she concluded.