A newfound ability to react positively to events in a game stood to Galway’s credit when Cork scored the crucial goal late in Sunday’s All Ireland Senior Camogie final, captain Sarah Dervan revealed in the aftermath of the county’s fourth senior title.
The Leesiders threatened to derail Galway’s challenge when Katrina Mackey’s rocket from the right sent her side ahead for the first time. But, whereas previous Galway teams might have been mortally wounded by such an event, this Galway side is made of sterner stuff as they hit back to lift the title in dramatic style detonating a sea of maroon around Croke Park.
It was heart-stirring stuff and saw an otherwise disappointing Galway GAA year end in glory with momentous scenes of joy and celebration on the pitch and in the stands.
Captain Sarah Dervan spoke about the response to the late Cork goal.
“You can only control how you want to react and years gone by, we reacted in the wrong way. This year we said we are going to react the way we want to, no matter what Cork throw at us. So we drove on and it put a bit of belief back into us and we dug really deep and we are so delighted to be on the right side of it.
“Our management team is unbelievable. They have brought Galway camogie to an elite level. Robbie Lane has been exceptional as our S&C coach and Cathal always demands the best for us. We always get fed, and treated the way any county hurling team would, and that is huge. He never let us down and fought for us, and because of Cathal and his team, we are here as All-Ireland champions.”
Goalkeeper Sarah Healy who made several key interventions, including a fantastic block from Katrina Mackey, said she had no fears of losing, even after Cork scored their goal.
“I knew coming up we were going to win, so when they got the goal and we went back down and got our goal and then got another score, I then thought, we are going to be OK.”
Praising the impact that Cathal Murray has had on the team, she says has brought Galway camogie further than it ever was. “We were always knocking on semi-final stages, struggling to get to the final and then if we got to the final, struggling to compete. He came in and the people he brought with him, have brought us so far. We can go much further than this.”
Manager Cathal Murray, hugely proud of the team, said the reaction to the goal was “immense”.
“That was the first time Cork led in that game. There are plenty of places to hide in Croke Park if you want to after a goal like that, but the girls stood up. We talked about if something like happened in a game and their reaction was super. We outscored them 1-4 to 0-1 for the remainder of the game. All day their workrate, aggression and intensity were impressive and you need that to beat a team like Cork.
“Two All-Irelands in three years. Delighted to be working with them. We needed to go toe to toe with Looney and Thompson after seeing how good they were in their semi-final. It was a great battle; Niamh Kilkenny and Aoife Donohue deserve great credit for the work they did. It was a joy to watch for any neutral.”
While two titles in three years is special, he stopped short of labelling them great.
“For me, the great teams win back to back titles, the likes of Wexford and Cork and this is now the challenge for this team. We need to win another All-Ireland if we want to be named a great team.”
But they are well on their way and it was a forward with experience of late scores who got them back in front when Siobhán McGrath netted after Cork’s Katrina Mackey had sent a thunderbolt to the roof of their net in the 49th minute.
That made it 1-11 to 0-11, but from that juncture forward, Galway outscored the Munster crew by 1-4 to 0-1. Murray’s side had already reduced the margin to one when McGrath finished delicately beyond the advancing Amy Lee in the 56th minute, after the excellent Ailish O’Reilly had broken the line and provided the ideal pass.
Orla Cronin, freed to play after a late night ruling, made it a one-point game but as Cork poured forward, Galway forced some huge turnovers and capitalised on the space, McGrath’s sister Orlaith fired over two match-winning points.
Galway brought in Carrie Dolan to make her first appearance since suffering a serious knee injury in the opening game against Westmeath, with Niamh Hanniffy dropping to the bench and Aoife Donohue brought in to stiffen the midfield partnership with Niamh Kilkenny that drove Galway to victory two years ago.
It was a game befitting an All-Ireland final with phenomenal quality in terms of physicality, skill and stamina and while it could have gone either way with a different bounce of a ball or the difference of a blocked pass here or there, it was difficult to argue against the eventual result given how Galway had led for most of the affair.
In a storming start Dolan scored two frees and Siobhán McGrath hit the first of her two first half points. O’Reilly cut in from the left to fire over from 40m soon after and it was a dream opening.
Gradually, Cork chiselled their way back into it. Ashling Thompson ran onto a break from a Lee puckout to get the Rebels off the mark, while McGrath replied before Sarah Healy was forced into an tremendous save from Mackey. Cronin hit a brilliant score soon after, the first of three consecutive points for Cork, the other two quite superb efforts from Looney.
Scores from Cronin (free ) and Mackey, after Cronin had somehow stolen possession, brought Cork level for the first time, but an inspirational score by Donohue on the run from wide on the right gave Galway the edge at the break, 0-9 to 0-8.
Ding dong battle
The third quarter was a real arm wrestle with very little scoring. It wasn’t from the lack of opportunities – there were plenty - but both sets of defences shone, Libby Coppinger and Shauna Healy just two that came up with some massive plays.
Kilkenny extended Galway’s advantage, but Paudie Murray’s charges remained threatening without translating half-chances to scores. Cronin punished a foul on O’Connor and repeated that trick after Dolan had slotted from a free to leave a point between them at the water break, 0-11 to 0-10, after a miraculous block from Looney denied Dolan a goal.
Whe Cronin arced over a beauty from the right, the teams were level before Collins, introduced five minutes after the restart, set up Mackey’s goal that gave the diving Sarah Healy no chance.
However, Dolan converted a free with her last act while O’Reilly followed suit. The Oranmore-Maree attacker then provided the vital assist for the match-deciding score, giving McGrath that split-second she needed to transfer sliotar to hurley to angle a shot to the net.
Now the race for greatness begins.
GALWAY: Sarah Healy, D Higgins, Shauna Healy, S Dervan, C Cormican, E Helebert, S Gardiner, N Kilkenny, A Donohue, C Dolan, S Spellman, C Finnerty, O McGrath, S McGrath, A O’Reilly. Subs: N Hanniffy for Finnerty (ht ), R Hennelly for Dolan (51 ), A Starr for Cormican (60 ), N Coen for Spellman (60+1 ).
CORK: A Lee, P Mackey, L Coppinger, M Cahalane, L Hayes, L Treacy, S McCarthy, H Looney, A Thompson, C O’Sullivan, F Keating, C Sigerson, K Mackey, A O’Connor, O Cronin. Subs: L Collins for O’Sullivan (36 ), C Healy for Keating (59 ).
REFEREE: Liz Dempsey (Kilkenny ).