Kilkenny's Grace Walsh
If anyone knows the story about how tough 2020 it’s Kilkenny’s Grace Walsh.
The high flying wing back has been working on the frontline throughout the Covid-19 pandemic as a clinical nurse in St Vincent’s Hospital so camogie has been her freedom.
That freedom was on full view in Croke Park on Saturday night as she gave an almost perfect performance in both defence and attack.
She was everywhere and despite there being no spectators in attendance to share her delight with it’s an All-Ireland victory she will deeply cherish.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” she said, savouring the victory.
“There is nothing like. I suppose it was extra special as it’s been a very tough year for everyone and it will make us look back on 2020 with something to smile about.
“It’s very exciting, I’d say my mam and dad are happy enough at home as they were stressed ahead of the game so I’m just delighted.
“It’s strange not having a crowd there but in a way it probably makes it even more special as you are just together with the team you’ve worked really hard with all year and you get to enjoy the moment with the people that matter the most.”
Kilkenny enjoyed a very fruitful championship campaign defeating the likes of Waterford, Limerick and Westmeath in the group stages.
Things went up a notch for the Cats in the knockout stages and despite there being many doubts of their capabilities on winning back the O’Duffy Cup, Walsh and her team-mates produced a couple of brilliant back-to-back performances to get over old adversaries Cork and Galway. The entire panel’s effort was an area of huge praise in the success.
“It’s been a great year but the championship has been very tough,” said Walsh.
“We bumped into a great Cork team in the semi-final and we knew what we were coming up against in Galway and it was a savage performance from both teams.
“We worked really hard and for us the win is about number one to 36 as everybody in the squad has played a part in this victory.”
The motivation was obvious for Kilkenny as they headed up the Jones Road via a garda escort. You get the feeling they made a promise on that bus that they weren’t leaving beaten for a fourth year in a row.
The team certainly played like that anyway and Galway were caught in a whirlwind of emotion and ferocity of black and amber that was going to be almost impossible to halt and so it proved.
“We are after losing three All-Ireland finals in a row so for any team coming out in a fourth they have belief in themselves and each and every one of us had that belief in each other and that’s what it took to get over the line.
“We had the spirit and the drive and I think that’s what won it for us.
“We had the confidence to come back and win in a year nobody will forget. so it’s absolutely brilliant.
“It’s incredible to lift that cup because I didn’t think we would get back here.”
In the spirit of her brothers Padraig and Tommy, Grace wasn’t just content with keeping a solid base in the Kilkenny defence as she got forward for a crucial point in the final few minutes.
In some ways it summed up her performance as it arrived on the back of a brilliant turnover.
“I’ll be getting a bit of slagging over that point, I’ve been trying to score in training all year and they’ve always went wide so that was a nice one to get.”
“I love playing against Galway because the two of us hurl as it’s not a very tactical game and we just all want to go out and play hurling and that’s what happened today,” she finished.
“It was physical and tough it was very enjoyable for us.”