Galway are triumphant but camogie is also a winner
‘We beat Cork, we beat Kilkenny, so I think we deserved this one,’ said Ailish O’Reilly
Galway players celebrating at the final whistle of the senior camogie All-Ireland final in Croke Park. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Camogie needed this. Not specifically Galway winning their first All-Ireland since 2013, nor Kilkenny’s run of lost finals ticking along to three in a row. Not even the healthy crowd of 24,703, the highest ever for a standalone final (ie, one not paired with an under-21 hurling final).
No, what they needed was the scoreline, 3-14 to 0-17, indicating a different sort of game to the claustrophobic afternoons they’ve had to serve up as showpieces at the back end of this decade.
Galway came through this as six-point winners after a final that shook and stirred throughout. The two teams’ combined total of 3-31 made it the highest scoring final since 1988. Those 31 white flags raised were the most in any final in camogie history. Kilkenny’s losing score of 0-17 would have won all but two of the past 13 finals.
After a spate of deciders that left people shaking their heads at the struggle of it all, this was a much better look for all concerned.
And for Galway it was a championship that left no room for quarrel. In camogie these days there are three teams – themselves, Kilkenny and Cork. In a light year you might win an All-Ireland only having to face one of the other two with everything on the line. Galway had to come through against them both this time around, going in as underdogs both days. They more than earned the right to be a little salty about it afterwards.
“We had three goals and we were capable of getting a few more,” said corner-forward Ailish O’Reilly, who scored two herself and set up the other for Niamh Hanniffy.
“There was a lot of talk about the Kilkenny forwards but I think every time we ran at them we looked dangerous as well. So look, the pressure was on them. We went out and put everything out there for 60 minutes.
“We beat them in the league final after they came back at us. They beat us in the first round of the championship. But what was the point of giving anything away then? We were definitely going to have to play them again, and we were definitely going to have to play Cork again.
“I don’t think our backs got enough credit all year. Again a lot of talk was about Kilkenny. And that suited us absolutely down to the ground. We went out and showed what we were capable of. We beat Cork, we beat Kilkenny, so I think we deserved this one.”
On the flipside, a third year in a row sloping out of Croke Park as All-Ireland runners-up will feel like a tonne weight for Kilkenny through the winter. They were stride for stride with Galway here for long patches but they carried no goal threat and ultimately it cost them. Ann Downey, so often a winner here herself, found it hard to put a finger on why Galway looked the hungrier side.
“Maybe because they haven’t been here for so long. Kilkenny have been here for the last few years, and maybe our players were just so afraid of losing and they weren’t able to express themselves.
“And, you know, maybe we’ve lost so many All-Irelands that fear was holding our girls back…You try to address the situation, and you always try to look ahead. While we did look at the last two All-Irelands it wasn’t our focus point. You can only look back and learn. With new opposition and a new challenge, we were hoping things would go better but they didn’t.
“An All-Ireland is a big stage. Some of the young girls played with freedom and maybe some of our older girls know that the end of the line is nearer this year than it was last year. Maybe that does hold them back. But I couldn’t ask any more of them.”