At the same time as a discussion was breaking out in Qatar about Leo Messi’s silk pyjamas, closer to home it was all about the Cats’ pyjamas as Kilkenny swept the boards at the PwC Camogie All Stars.
A little under three months after winning the All-Ireland title, the Noresiders returned to Croke Park on Saturday night to garner eight All Stars as well as the PwC GPA Senior Player of the Year and Manager of the Year gongs, which went to Miriam Walsh and Brian Dowling.
After her heroics in the semi-final defeat of champions Galway, Aoife Norris was entrusted with the goalie’s jersey. She, along with the scorer of the match-turning goal in that game, Laura Murphy, is a first-time All-Star recipient. Fellow defenders Grace Walsh and Claire Phelan were honoured a third time.
Julianne Malone marked her return from a three-year hiatus in Australia with her second All-Star, in attack, with Denise Gaule earning her sixth, the dynamic Katie Nolan a second and Miriam Walsh, like her cousin Grace, a third.
Cork were rewarded for their titanic efforts in the final with four places in the team via Libby Coppinger, debutant Saoirse McCarthy, Ashling Thompson and Katrina Mackey, who claimed her sixth award.
Waterford’s feat in reaching a semi-final for the first time since 1959 was marked by nods for Beth Carton and Lorraine Bray. Shauna Healy completely the line-up, the redoubtable Galwegian being listed at corner-back for the fourth year in succession.
Galway also supplied the Intermediate Player of the Year, Lisa Casserly, while Dervla Cosgrove’s four-goal salvo in the All-Ireland final earned her the Premier Junior Player of the Year award.
Kilkenny went through the year undefeated in competitive fare but that stat actually masks a significant period of turmoil.
Off the field, Dowling, coach Tommy Shefflin and a number of the players suffered bereavements that shook them. These came in the wake of the retirements of Davina Tobin and Collette Dormer, and Meighan Farrell’s departure for Australia.
Then came the cruciate knee ligament injuries to the Doyle sisters, Kellyann and Aoife, with Kellyann falling foul of the curse a third time.
“At one point, off the pitch and on the pitch, everything that could go wrong was going wrong,” said Dowling, who was named Manager of the Year for the second time having also been honoured in 2020 having steered Kilkenny to All-Ireland success in his first season in charge. “Everybody, including myself, didn’t know where we were going.
“It’s funny now but last year’s All-Stars were on in March and we were actually playing a challenge match the same night against Waterford in Piltown. They beat us off the pitch by about 12 points. You’re kind of wondering where we are going and what’s going to happen.
“Clare beat us a few weeks later and scored 3-18 against us. You’re thinking, ‘Is there a way back here?’ But we stuck at it, changed the team around a bit, players got a bit of form, we started to win a couple of matches and it started to happen.”
PwC Camogie All Stars: Aoife Norris (Kilkenny), Libby Coppinger (Cork), Grace Walsh (Kilkenny), Shauna Healy (Galway), Laura Murphy (Kilkenny), Claire Phelan (Kilkenny), Saoirse McCarthy (Cork), Ashling Thompson (Cork), Lorraine Bray (Waterford), Denise Gaule (Kilkenny), Beth Carton (Waterford), Julianne Malone (Kilkenny), Katie Nolan (Kilkenny), Miriam Walsh (Kilkenny), Katrina Mackey (Cork)
PwC Soaring Stars: Áine Graham (Antrim), Ciara Hickey (Galway), Ciara Donohoe (Galway), Ashling Moloney (Cork), Katie Manning (Galway), Lisa Casserly (Galway), Gráinne McNicholl (Derry), Jennifer Hughes (Galway), Emma Laverty (Antrim), Joanne Casey (Cork), Katie Gilchrist (Galway), Aoife Minogue (Meath), Dervla Cosgrove (Antrim), Niamh McPeake (Galway), Lauren Homan (Cork).
PwC GPA Camogie Player of the Year: Miriam Walsh (Kilkenny). Pwc GPA Intermediate POTY: Lisa Casserly (Galway). PwC GPA Premier Junior POTY: Dervla Cosgrove (Antrim)
PwC Camogie Manager of the Year: Brian Dowling (Kilkenny)