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27/10/2021

Rekindling the flame of Black & Amber victory

Kilkenny Camogie

"Our marvellous, our wonderful, our courageous camogie stars brought such joy to our hearts last Saturday evening."

Thank you, Jesus. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I’m thanking Jesus because His birthday is just around the corner and because it’s a reflex action, or thought, I suppose but really I should be thanking (and I am) our marvellous, our wonderful, our courageous camogie stars who brought such joy to our hearts last Saturday evening.

And that joy, that jubilation was evident for all to see (and almost feel) on the green, green grass of Croke Park when the final whistle, at long, long last (Christ I thought it would never blow!) blew.

And that joy, that jubilation spilled out into every Kilkenny kitchen, sitting room, lounge bar, bar, shebeen, and what have you, across the city and county.

Croke Park may have been empty but Saturday evening last it was chock-a-block with courage, with character, with tenacity, with grit, with determination and with drive. Black and amber character, black and amber determination, black and amber drive – the hallmarks of our courageous, All-Ireland camogie champions. And when Dicksboro’s Lucinda Gahan, captain of the team, lifted the O’Duffy Cup, it lifted Kilkenny spirits like they haven’t been lifted in quite a while.

There have been marvellous, massive, Kilkenny All-Ireland victories down the years (not least Brian Cody’s haul of 11, including the historic four-in-a-row in the 2000s) but this victory, our 14th senior All-Ireland camogie title, is up there with the best of them.

I have no doubt but Covid-19 played a prominent part in our appreciation of this 2020 victory. Lucinda Gahan in her captain’s speech said: ‘A dark cloud has been lifted’. Lucinda was referring to the shadow of possibly losing four-in-a-row camogie All Ireland finals but the girls’ victory also lifted the shadow of Covid – at least temporarily.

And I feel a bit silly referring to our camogie champions as ‘girls’ but I’d feel more silly referring to them as ‘women’. Our camogie women! Doesn’t sound right. Our camogie ‘girls’ sounds better but isn’t entirely accurate! Perhaps the PC brigade will come up with a more appropriate appellation – not that the team will mind, their concern, their focus was on hurling. And winning.

HARD WON

And for sure it was a hard-won win. No doubt but the god-awful dread of losing four-in-a-row drove our ‘girls’ on.

It certainly drove me on. Drove my blood pressure up, not least when that penalty was awarded. ‘Dear, God’ I heard myself say (and I a non-practising atheist) ‘Please, please let us score a goal to win the game’.

And such was the tension, such was the stress around that penalty shot that our camogie team manager, Brian Dowling, had to look away! Well, I obviously have a stronger constitution than Brian (kidding, Brian, kidding, and well done) but I looked; I looked but I swear to God (again!) I couldn’t see. Not properly anyway.

And as Denise Gaule approached the ball all I could hear was Marty Morrissey’s voice: ’57 minutes and 32 seconds have been played, Kilkenny 13 points, Galway a goal and 10. Here she comes’ And, as Denise lifted the sliotar and struck it I still couldn’t take in what happened until I heard Marty again: ‘It’s low and it’s in the back of the net, a rasper that not even Denise Healy could stop.’

And that’s when I breathed a sigh of relief. A sigh of relief that I thought would see me to the final whistle. How wrong I was. In the ensuing seven minutes - four of which were time added on - Galway managed another point to leave a goal between us.

One solitary goal. One solitary score. The blood pressure is back up. I’m back up – on my feet, in my kitchen, fretting, and sweating as yet another Galway free is awarded, resulting in yet another ferocious assault on our back line.

At long, long last, the final whistle blows. Game over. And how wonderful to hear The Rose of Mooncoin ring out across Croke Park once again.

Finally, a heartfelt, and most appreciative, congratulations to our Camogie Champions (all 36 of you) and to your backroom team for bringing joy and jubilation to the people of Kilkenny in these dark Covid days. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

PS - As for that massacre masquerading as an All-Ireland hurling final, no offence to you Waterford (I was cheering for you) but, in fairness, our camogie ‘girls’ would have given Limerick a better game!

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