Despite a brave effort from Kilkenny in Sunday’s All-Ireland senior camogie final in Croke Park there was no disputing the merits of Galway’s success.
The Westerners were spurred on by two recent All-Ireland final defeats plus a loss to Kilkenny earlier in the year. The determination to erase those memories was evident. The exchanges were even for the opening five minutes but thereafter Galway gradually began to exert greater influence.
Galway’s superiority was not reflected on the scoreboard until Ailish O’Reilly scored the only goal late in the first half. On another day it might have been disallowed for over-carrying.
That goal was the crucial score. Galway’s confidence grew and Kilkenny needed a quick response but it did not arrive. The winners clearly spend time reviewing Kilkenny’s earlier championship performances because the tactic of tight-marking every Kilkenny player was a match-winner.
Kilkenny players found it hard to get control of the ball and committed far too many unforced errors. Kilkenny’s paltry return of four points in the opening half left the side with much to do.
With only four points separating the team at the interval, bridging the gap appeared possible. Matters got no better, though, for Kilkenny in the second half. An overworked defence played excellently all through especially in the second half.
All six defenders battled tenaciously for every ball and held Galway to just four points during the second thirty minutes. Edwina Keane, Elaine Aylward and Jacqui Frisby were particularly impressive.
Ann Dalton worked very hard at midfield after the break but when it came to scoring her shooting let her down. On another day she would have scored a couple of points.
Kilkenny had big problems in attack and despite a couple of early points from Shelly Farrell (one of which might have been a goal) it was an unhappy afternoon for the Kilkenny forwards.
The talk before the game was that it would be the last outing for Galway’s Therese Maher. The Athenry player has been at the wrong end of many All-Ireland defeats and this was to be her final game and the last opportunity to win a Celtic Cross.
Maher played brilliantly giving a Player of the Match performance. Time will tell if she retires but if this is to be her last game in the Galway jersey it was a fitting departure for a great player.
She marshalled her team brilliantly from centre half back and constantly broke up Kilkenny attacks.
This, though, was far from a one-player effort from Galway. Throughout the team the players showed an appetite and determination which Kilkenny could not match.
Despite Galway’s clear superiority the game was never out of Kilkenny’s grasp. A goal was required to get back into the game but Kilkenny rarely threatened Susan Earner’s goal.
A notable feature of the game was the number of times the referee had to throw in the ball following what has become known as a ‘hurling scrum’. When it came to the physical exchanges Galway held a distinct advantage.
Sadly for Kilkenny the team did not perform as they had hoped. It happens to the best of sides in All-Ireland finals. What is important now is for all involved to reflect on what went wrong and to start out at the beginning of next year determined to atone.
Despite Sunday’s disappointment, progress has been made. The players are young enough and good enough to return to Croke Park next year when they can do better.