Failure to take several goal chances against a team as disciplined as Kilkenny cost Galway success in an enthralling Littlewoods Ireland Division One League Final at Croke Park last evening (Sunday ) as the All-Ireland champions racked up another final win against the Tribeswomen.
Despite a bright start which saw the creation of several goal chances, Galway led by three points at the break, but in the following quarter, Kilkenny’s power and drive but the basis for their three-point victory.
Despite the winners’ dominance, it was Galway who were asking all the questions as they drove forward in the closing stages, but the Cats were able to pick some vital scores and ultimately break the hearts of the westerners.
Manager Cathal Murray said afterwards that the team’s failure to take goal chances when presented contributed to their failure to build on their strong first half performance, but he said that he was very proud of the players who took the game to the All-Ireland champions just a week after a draining semi-final win against Cork.
“We were really disappointed at our performance in the final last December, but we got a performance tonight.
“We created two or three good goal opportunities, but we didn’t take them. But saying that, Kilkenny deserved to win it at the end of the day. It is a good platform for us, it is a league final and we obviously very disappointed, but we are two month away from an All-Ireland Final and we want to come back out here again. We have loads of areas to improve on, but we are really proud of the players and that’s the bottom line. They put in a huge shift and we were the team that was driving on and were unlucky they didn’t get the breaks in the last few minutes.
“The biggest thing we take from today is that we need to take our chances. If you create three or four goal chances against Kilkenny, you need to take them and if you don’t, you’re not going to win the match. We were disappointed with the goal we gave away as well and we will sit down and look at things, but there was only a point in that game going into injury time, and it was unfortunate Kilkenny got the two late points, so we’re really proud of the players. It was a great game and a great advertisement for camogie,” he said.
He agreed that Kilkenny had forced the game early in the second half.
“Kilkenny really came at us and Miriam Walsh caused us a lot of trouble in the corner and they got the goal. They seemed to be winning more ball in the half forward line. When we tightened up that area, we were the team that was coming at them at the finish.
He said that if the team had lost against Cork last week, it would have been hard to face into the Championship with confidence.
‘But we have had a good game against Kilkenny and we showed huge character and resilience in Cork last week and that took a lot out of us and a week later we’re playing a league final, but we have no excuses, we know we weren’t good enough to win it and we need to improve in certain areas.
We died with our boots on.
He said that losing two finals does not concern him unduly.
“Kilkenny lost two finals in a row and then won last year’s All-Ireland. I’d be more concerned if we weren’t getting to finals. There were plenty of times when Galway weren’t getting to these finals. It is our goal to be in the All-Ireland final again here in September,” he added.
The game started so brightly for Galway. Catherine Finnerty had a storming start. Her first run drew a foul and a free which was missed by Carrie Dolan; and her second almost similar run brought the free from which Dolan opened the scoring in the fifth minute..
The lead only lasted two minutes however before Kate Nolan picked up a loose ball 30 metres out and fired over. Grace Walsh ran through to give Kilkenny the lead in the ninth minute.
A storming run by Niamh Kilkenny from her own half allowed her to feed Aoife Donohue who fired over for the leveller in the 12th minute. Carrie Dolan gave Galway the lead again before Katie Nolan opted for a point rather the than the goal shot that might have been on.
Dolan’s free then gave Galway the lead at the water break and she increased the lead from a free after Grace Walsh floored the marauding Finnerty. Denise Gaule replied with a free to leave the minimum between the sides after nineteen minutes.
Galway had a goal chance but the final pass was overhit and Kilkenny were able to avert the danger.
The impressive Gaule levelled matters from a free a few minutes later but it was short-lived as a Dolan pass to Niamh McGrath brought a good score from 30 metres.
After Donohue was floored out on the right, Dolan scored a tremendous free from a tight angle to put Galway two ahead. What she could do from the left, she could do from the right and another free widened Galway’s advantage. From play, she also finished a promising Galway move in the 29th minute but Michaela Kennealy reduced the deficit to three on the half hour.
A foul on Spellman gave Dolan a chance to put Galway four ahead again but her shot was low and wide, so the Tribeswomen went in at the break three ahead.
However, that was as good as it got for Galway, aust a minute into the second half, Mary O’Connell reduced the deficit before Aoife Doyle soloed through and blasted to the corner of the net to put the Cats ahead.
A cross-run by Doyle resulted in another for the Cats but the point of the day went to Gaule who fired over from out near halfway to put Kilkenny three clear. Michaela Kenneally made it four a minute later and Galway were on the racks. A Gaule free from her own half nearly made it through to the net but was cleared, before Mary O’Connell put the Cats five clear.
At this stage, the exertions of the Cork win seemed to be taking their toll on Galway as they wilted under tremendous pressure while a rejuvenated Kilkenny hunted in packs.
But Galway got back into it when Niamh Kilkenny broke through several challengers and held her composure to fire to the net to get Galway back into the game after 40 minutes.
Galway rallied but a Gaule free restored the three point advantage. When Niamh Kilkenny was fouled by Tobin, Dolan’s free narrowed the gap. Niamh McGrath’s free found Siobhan McGrath who scored a quick point but Katie Nolan replied for Kilkenny. Gaule’s free put Kilkenny three ahead again. Galway had a goal chance when Aoife Donohue broke through but her pass was slow. However, she drew a foul which Dolan tapped over to leave Galway just two behind.
When Spelman was fouled by Collette Dormer, Dolan tapped over to leave just one point between the sides. Siobhan McGrath could have goaled for Galway but her shot was well blocked by Norris, before Niamh Deely replied for Kilkenny. Niamh Kilkenny cut inside to score after 57, and in the closing minutes Galway applied pressure which paid off when Aoife Donohue equalised in the 61st minute.
However, they conceded again when Steffi Fitzgerald got a great score and two more from Gaule and O’Connell sent the league title to the Marble City.
SCORERS - KILKENNY: D Gaule 0-6(5fs ); A Doyle 1-2; K Nolan, M O’Connell 0-3; G Walsh, N Deely, M Kenneally, S Fitzgerald 0-1 each.
GALWAY: C Dolan 0-10(8fs ); N Kilkenny 1-1; A Donohue 0-2; N McGrath, S McGrath 0-1 each
GALWAY: Sarah Healy, T Kenny, S Dervan, Shauna Healy, S Gardiner, E Helebert, R Black, N McGrath, N Kilkenny, C Dolan, C Finnerty, S Spellman, A O’Reilly, A Donohoe, S McGrath.
Subs: D Higgins for Kenny (37 ), C Cormican for Helebert (42 ), A M Starr for Finnerty (46 ), N Hanniffy for O’Reilly (54 )
KILKENNY: A Norris, C Dormer, D Tobin, M Teehan, K Doyle, M Farrell, G Walsh, A Prendergast, N Deely, D Gaule, M Kenneally, M O’Connell, A Doyle, M Walsh, K Nolan.
Subs: L Murphy for Prendergast (37 ), S Fitzgerald for M Walsh (48 ), K Power for Kenneally (51 ), M Bambrick for K Doyle (59 )
REFEREE: Justin Heffernan (Wexford )