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'We went 21 minutes without scoring in second half. We won't be winning All-Irelands doing that'

Kilkenny boss Brian Dowling knows his side have improvements to make before the decider.

Kilkenny players celebrate at the final whistle after defeating Cork.
Kilkenny players celebrate at the final whistle after defeating Cork.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

KILKENNY CAMOGIE MANAGER Brian Dowling hailed the performance of his side after edging out a thriller with Cork to book their place in a fifth consecutive All-Ireland final.

But in the same breath, he pointed to aspects of their game that they must improve on before facing into a repeat of last year’s decider against Galway.

This will be their first All-Ireland final under Dowling, and their seventh showpiece appearance since 2013. That record alone illustrates their ability to reach the big stage in the championship.

Against Cork today, Dowling’s charges rallied from an early six-point deficit to gradually take control of the tie. They held firm against Cork’s repeated attempts to snatch a victory at the death, but Dowling sees loose ends that need to be tightened up.

We went a long period of that second-half without scoring, 21 minutes, which is frightening, worrying,” he said after their win. “We won’t be winning All-Irelands doing that.

“Cork probably missed a few chances but I just felt we could always stay ahead. Once we got that goal in the second-half, we had something to hold onto.

“If we had to go chasing the game, if we had to go ahead, we could have found ourselves in a difficult position. Look, we got over the line. There is a lot to work, but we are where we want to be now.

“It was a very bad opening, 1-3 down after eight minutes. People said coming into the game we hadn’t had a tough game yet, maybe that played into it, I don’t know.

“We turned it around. We missed a couple of easy chances which would have got us more ahead. Anne [Dalton] goal was crucial. That really settled us down.”

Remarking on the performance of his backs in nullifying Cork’s key attackers, Dowling added:

“I thought our backs were absolutely tremendous. That Cork team has some unbelievable forwards. I think we shut them down. Amy O’Connor, Orla Cronin, I think people were saying player of the year.

brian-dowling Kilkenny manager Brian Dowling. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“We gave Meighan Farrell and Davina Tobin jobs to do today, the had to sacrifice their own game, and I thought they were absolutely immense.” 

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A camogie championship in winter weather, but despite the change in seasons, the same two teams have emerged to contest the decider.

Kilkenny’s win wasn’t assured until the final whistle, while Galway’s semi-final victory over Tipperary was more straight forward as they always looked to be the superior outfit on their way to a six-point win in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

Of the seven All-Ireland finals they’ve reached since 2013, Kilkenny have only managed to lift the O’Duffy Cup once. But the prospect of reaching another decider is keeping hunger levels high.

“I am sure it is driving the girls,” says Dowling.

“We have a lot of new girls in this year, as well. We have a lot of injuries and people not with the panel anymore. We spoke at the start of the year about the All-Ireland final. At the start of the year, you can’t do anything about the All-Ireland final because you are not in it.

“We are just going to train hard the next two weeks, get the bodies right. We are delighted to be there, really over the moon.

“Playing Cork on their home pitch, to come away with a win, and I don’t even think we played that well in patches so we’ve lots to improve on and we will have to improve for the final.”

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