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Hard hits on both sides, Galway's clinical finishing and another compelling final

There was plenty to pore over from Sunday’s gripping contest.

niamh-kilkenny-with-aisling-thompson Source: Brian Reilly-Troy/INPHO

1. Hard Knocks

The physical stakes were high in Croke Park on Sunday, as Galway and Cork engaged in a mighty arm wrestle for All-Ireland senior glory.

Unlike the two semi-finals, no red cards were produced but there was a flurry of yellow warnings dished out to both teams as the hits were exchanged.

Cork’s Libby Coppinger along with Galway duo Shauna Healy and Siobhán Gardiner were among those whose names were put into the referee’s book.

Cork full-forward Amy O’Connor was proving to be a menace in the Galway defence, creating at least two clear goal chances as she went. She failed to convert those opportunities against a very tight defensive unit who needed to use their muscle power at times to curtail her.

After the game, the victorious Galway manager Cathal Murray commended referee Liz Dempsey for how she officiated the game and gave the players the freedom to have full contact throughout the contest.

“I thought Liz… in fairness to the referees, there is a group of referees that are letting the game flow and it’s really contributing to them matches. If you’re pulling for nitty, gritty things all the time you’re not going to have the same spectacle.

“Yes, there were fouls, a couple of balls went into Siobhan McGrath and we thought she was fouled. If you’re giving them frees, then you’re giving them frees everywhere and it’s going to be a stop-start game.

“Fair play to Liz, I thought she had a great game. I can’t think of any decision she made that was influenced in any way and that’s a good sign for a referee.”

2. Galway make better use of their chances

By this writer’s tally, the final wide count was 5-2 to Cork. That, coupled with the spurned goal opportunities will haunt them as they try to make sense of why they came up three points short in the final.

Cork were chasing the game for much of the proceedings but were never far off Galway throughout. They were two points down at the first water break, one adrift at half-time and were still trailing by the same deficit by the turn of the second water break.

After all that sustained effort in tailing Galway, Cork did manage to bring the sides level before a well-worked Katrina Mackey goal gave them the lead in the final quarter of the game.

However, they failed to maximise their position and Galway produced one final rally to outscore their opponents 1-4 to 0-1 and secure the victory.

“Probably retreated a small bit,” Cork boss Murray admitted afterwards when reflecting on Cork’s performance after Mackey’s goal.

“In doing that we lost a lot of breaks in and around our own half-forward line. I am disappointed with that. We could have managed that better. It was nip and tuck. Small things probably decide games and that is probably one area where we fell down on.”

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sarah-dervan-lifts-the-oduffy-cup Galway captain Sarah Dervan lifting the O'Duffy Cup. Source: Brian Reilly-Troy/INPHO

3. Another intriguing decider

The marginal differences between the top three teams in camogie ensure we’re always guaranteed a compelling contest in the All-Ireland final.

This will be the ninth consecutive season that the O’Duffy Cup has been presented to a captain from Galway, Cork or Kilkenny. For the second time in four seasons, it was Galway full-back Sarah Dervan who lifted the trophy as Galway collected their fourth-ever senior title.

The 2020 decider was an unusual event, as it was pushed back from its traditional September slot by the Covid pandemic to a cold night in December. It was also played without a crowd due to the restrictions which were in place at the time.

Despite that eerie atmosphere, Kilkenny and Galway played out a gripping contest where a late Denise Gaule penalty ultimately separated the sides and saw the Cats crowned champions.

We were treated to another thriller on Sunday. Both sides gave an exhibition in stickwork proficiency, and there were some well-taken scores from tricky angles. The Mackey goal brought the crowd roaring to life in Croke Park as the lead changed hands in a tense stretch to the final whistle.

It all bodes well for more excitement to follow when the 2022 season begins.

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