Cats can’t cope with Kilkenny as Galway take camogie title

Midfielder was the standout performer as the Westerners took senior camogie title

Galway’s Niamh Kilkenny and Aoife Donohue celebrate at the final whistle as they won the All-Ireland senior camogie championship title. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Galway’s Niamh Kilkenny and Aoife Donohue celebrate at the final whistle as they won the All-Ireland senior camogie championship title. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Galway 3-14 Kilkenny 0-17

The game ended the only way it was right for it to end. With Galway’s helter-skelter midfielder Niamh Kilkenny wiping all mystery from the afternoon by sticking two of the closing three points. They were her third and fourth of the afternoon, on top of the killer run-through and pass for two of Galway’s goals. Player of the Match will have been a short conversation.

After a couple of years of stuffy mushroom-factory finals, this felt like someone opened a window and let a bit of air in. Neither side played a sweeper and, just as significantly, referee Ray Kelly generally kept his whistle to himself. The free-count was down, a more pleasing level of physicality was licenced and nobody came out of Croke Park grousing at the quality of fare. All as it should be.

Not that any of it will be a comfort to Kilkenny. For the third year in a row, they departed headquarters as beaten All-Ireland finalists. You have to go back 30 years to the Cork team of the late 1980s for the last time that happened to any county. Getting off the canvas can’t get any easier.

Galway fans celebrate. Photo: Bryan Keane/Inpho
Galway fans celebrate. Photo: Bryan Keane/Inpho

For long stretches here, they were at least Galway’s equal and frequently their better. Problem was, they never came close to scoring a goal. Up against Galway’s first-half trifecta, that was never going to get it done. Ailish O’Reilly bookended the opening period with a goal after two minutes and another two minutes short of the break. Throw in another from Niamh Hanniffy and the weight of it all was always going to be tough to balance out.

“The three goals really killed us,” said Ann Downey afterwards. “They came from puck-outs landing down on our centre-back and their centrefielders came onto breaking ball from that on the overlap. We just didn’t contain it to be quite honest. Galway, in fairness to them, they really hunted in packs today and we didn’t.”

O’Reilly’s first goal came inside the opening 90 seconds and it set the template for a lot of what happened for the rest of the first half. It was Niamh Kilkenny’s first entry into the game and it was definitive. The Galway midfielder zipped onto scraps around a puck-out and drew the cover to put O’Reilly away. Not for the last time, the Kilkenny defence was pulled ragged and the Galway corner-forward punished them.

Setback though it was, Kilkenny made light of it for most of the next half-hour. Michelle Quilty was dead-eyed from frees and was ably-assisted by scores from play by Denise Gaule and Davina Tobin. Quilty took a lovely score from play herself after a clever low ball in from Anna Farrell. By the 20th minute, Kilkenny were 0-9 to 1-4 ahead and worth every bit of it.

But then the floor collapsed on them. over the closing eight minutes of the first half, they conceded a rat-a-tat 2-2 and needed Kellyann Doyle to clear another certain goal off the line. Galway’s lines of running had the Kilkenny full-back line constantly in retreat, looking like they were trying to tame tornadoes while back-pedalling for their lives. There was a predictably limited future in that.

O’Reilly thundered down the heart of Galway defence on 28 minutes and though she got bottled up, Hanniffy was able to dispatch the messy ball. It put Galway 2-6 to 0-10 in front and from there to the full-time whistle, they were never caught. With the next breath, O’Reilly nailed her second of the day, a virtual carbon copy of the first after another incision by Niamh Kilkenny and soon Galway had clear water behind them.

Galway led 3-7 to 0-10 at the break after the sort of half that would leave you dancing. That 3-7 would have won the past two All-Ireland finals and drawn the two before. And still you felt that it wasn’t beyond Kilkenny.

For a while, it looked as though they might find a way back. Though Carrie Dolan pointed a free for the first Galway score of the second half soon after the restart, Kilkenny knuckled down and rattled off seven of the next nine points. Ann Dalton blazed into the game, Gaule landed a bomb, Miriam Walsh flicked one of her own. With six minutes left on the clock, the gap was down to two points and Galway were wobbling.

Galway’s Niamh Hanniffy celebrates scoring a goal during the All-Ireland senior camogie final against Kilkenny. Photo: Bryan Keane/Inpho
Galway’s Niamh Hanniffy celebrates scoring a goal during the All-Ireland senior camogie final against Kilkenny. Photo: Bryan Keane/Inpho

At which point, Niamh Kilkenny took over. This was her fifth All-Ireland final - she’d lost three of the four that had gone before and wasn’t about to let it happen again. After Dolan settled things with gutsy free, the Galway midfielder whipped two more of her own, bringing her tally for the day to four.

Galway had Niamh Kilkenny. Kilkenny had no answer.

GALWAY: Sarah Healy (0-1, free); Shauna Healy, Sarah Dervan, Heather Cooney; Emma Helebert, Catriona Cormican, Lorraine Ryan; Aoife Donoghue, Niamh Kilkenny (0-4); Carrie Dolan (0-6, 0-4 frees, 0-2 45), Catherine Finnerty (0-1), Sarah Spellman (0-1); Noreen Coen (0-1), Niamh Hanniffy (1-0), Ailish O’Reilly (2-0).

Subs: Anne-Marie Starr for Coen, 42 mins; Rebecca Hennelly for Spellman, 50 mins.

KILKENNY: Emma Kavanagh; Collette Dormer, Catherine Foley, Edwina Keane; Kellyann Doyle, Claire Phelan, Grace Walsh; Meghan Farrell, Davina Tobin (0-1); Anna Farrell (0-1), Katie Power, Anne Dalton (0-2, 0-1 free); Michelle Quilty (0-8, 0-7 frees), Miriam Walsh (0-1), Denise Gaule (0-3, 0-1 free).

Subs: Aoife Doyle (0-1) for Keane, 28 mins; Danielle Morrissey for A Doyle, 58 mins.

Referee: Ray Kelly (Kildare).

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