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'I hope they went to bed on time for my wife' - Kilkenny star eager to celebrate All-Ireland with family

Anne Dalton’s three young children were supporting their Mammy from in the All-Ireland final.

Dalton's kids were wishing their Mammy well from Kilkenny on Saturday.
Dalton's kids were wishing their Mammy well from Kilkenny on Saturday.

KILKENNY STAR ANNE Dalton was given the night off parenting duty on Saturday evening. 

She had a “big match” on according to her wife, and former Waterford All-Ireland winner Karen Kelly, who published a lovely family photo on Twitter to wish Dalton well.

They have three youngsters haring around. Tadhg was the first born back in 2018 followed by the arrival of twins Ada and Seán last October.

The little trio were huddled together under the Christmas tree in that photo posted by Kelly, baubles in their hands and smiles creased across their faces as the evening throw-in drew near. Mammy will be home soon.

Kilkenny were facing the tough task of trying to dethrone Galway and become All-Ireland camogie champions again after three final defeats in-a-row.

A late Denise Gaule penalty proved to be the decisive score as the Cats prevailed at an empty Croke Park.

“It probably feels odd without the crowd here but it’s great to win and push it over the line,” says Dalton after the thrilling tussle that went right down to the wire.

Former Kilkenny star Breda Holmes, who is part of the backroom team, showed Dalton that photo of the kids shortly after the full-time whistle.

Even in the first few moments after winning an All-Ireland, the stress of managing three babies alone for the night are not far from Dalton’s mind.

“Breda Holmes told me alright, in front of the Christmas tree. I hope they went to bed on time for her [Kelly] so she could watch the game. But that’s her problem tonight, not mine,” she laughs.

“It’s a very busy house. Fun though, [it will be a] brilliant Christmas. Enjoyable for me again if that makes sense.

The young lad is two-and-a-half and looking forward to Santa so me and Santa do be talking on the phone the whole time when the dinner isn’t being eaten. We’ll get there.”

Families of the players were unable to attend the final due to the ongoing threat posed by Covid-19. But they played their part to show the Cats that the support of the county was behind them at the weekend.

They arranged a big send-off for the team, gathering along the streets of Kilkenny waving on as the players passed by to begin their journey to Croke Park.

Dalton was told about this in advance, although it was supposed to be a surprise.

“My wife wasn’t meant to tell me so I should probably lie about that,” she smiles.

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There was one notable member from outside the group who was in GAA headquarters to witness it all. Ann Downey, who managed Kilkenny to their previous All-Ireland crown in 2016, was in the press box this time around.

Kilkenny full-back Claire Phelan spoke for everyone involved when she told the media afterwards that they were thrilled to see Downey’s face in the stand.

“We were on the way in and she was at the corner waiting for us, to wave us in coming into Croke Park. Ann is a very special woman to the whole group and the whole of Kilkenny I think.

“She’s done so much for camogie through the years and with us. It is special to have her here and to get to see her after the match is really special.”

The defenders on both sides of the pitch excelled in the opening quarter of the game. Dalton says it was like watching “a game of tennis.”

There was one particular passage shortly before the first water break that underlined the standard of intense defending on display.

emma-helebert-with-anne-dalton Anne Dalton chasing down Galway's Emma Helebert in the All-Ireland final. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Galway backs reached out the hurl for a succession of blocks before a free was awarded to Kilkenny which Gaule converted. Phelan knew what she was coming up against when facing down Galway’s powerful attack force.

They’re really dangerous and we knew that coming into it. After last year, we could see what they can do to you. In fairness, the backs stood up. We all had our jobs to do and we did that today.”

The sight of having no crowds at GAA matches continues to cause some uneasiness in fans, even with the respective championships now coming to a conclusion.

Dalton stresses that the players have adjusted to the new dynamic, although they would have preferred to have family members in Croke Park for their moment of triumph.

The change in circumstances doesn’t dilute their achievement, however. There won’t be any asterisk around Kilkenny’s name on the O’Duffy Cup in 2020.

With that task now behind her, her focus will now switch to the next job of preparing for Santa.

“I said it before, if it was played out in the car park at the back of Croke Park, I’d take the All-Ireland. I don’t care as long as the medal is in my back pocket.” 

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