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From being seen as 'spoofers' and 'bluffers' to a first national title since 2015

The Galway camógs had a special win in Croke Park yesterday.

YESTERDAY WAS A massive day for Galway Camogie.

Their delight in Croke Park wasn’t let linger for long as Limerick and Mayo followed suit and ended long waits for league glory of their own, but the Tribeswomen’s earlier two-point win over Kilkenny was just as special — if not more so.

Lorraine Ryan and Anne Marie Starr celebrate Galway's Lorraine Ryan and Anne Marie Starr celebrate. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Cathal Murray’s side captured their first national title since 2015 and ended the Cats’ league dominance, pulling the curtain down on their four in-a-row bid while shaking things up nicely ahead of championship.

After an excellent first half which saw them lead 0-10 to 0-4 by the interval, Galway successfully weathered the Kilkenny storm and sent out a real statement of intent for the summer ahead. 

“We’re delighted,” Murray said afterwards. “We knew coming up today it was going to be a really tough challenge. I think we played really well in the first half and six points at half time probably didn’t reflect how well we played.

“They were always going to get their purple patch. We spoke about it at half time in the dressing room and the reaction to that was very good. We were delighted with it. We kicked on which was great.

“Last year, in the two Championship matches, they scored a goal against us and our reaction wasn’t as good. Today we reacted well to it.

“This Galway team needed to come up today and show they were able to play a Cork or a Kilkenny and beat them in a final.”

The top two, Cork and Kilkenny, have really dominated the inter-county landscape over the past few years. Since Galway last lifted the league crown in 2015, Ann Downey’s Kilkenny have won three — beating the Tribe in 2016 and then the Rebels in 2017 and 2018.

Cathal Murray Galway manager Cathal Murray. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

The Noresiders ended Cork’s three in-a-row All-Ireland championship bid in 2016, but the Leesiders have beaten them in the past two finals to lift back-to-back O’Duffy Cups since.

Galway, meanwhile, have had an array of talent through the years, but their failure to stay at the very top since their second All-Ireland senior championship title win in 2013 has puzzled many.

The lack of continuity at management level has surely not helped, but now they seem a much more solid unit. And this silverware provides a nice boost.

Sarsfields defender Tara Kenny won’t allow herself or her team-mates get too carried away, but she’s well aware of the value of this triumph.

“At the end of the day, we know it’s the league and we have Kilkenny in (the first round of) the Championship and that’s different gravy but we haven’t beaten Kilkenny in the last few years so mentally that’s going to be good for us.

“I think we’re mentally stronger this year. People have looked at us sometimes nearly like we’re spoofers or bluffers but we’ve worked hard this year and we’ll keep the head down now.”

A word from Kilkenny, perhaps, after failing to secure their hat-trick.

Obviously dejected, Downey questioned some of the first-half action but refused to put any blame on referee Cathal Egan, or the players involved. 

Sarah Dervan celebrates with the trophy Galway captain Sarah Dervan celebrates with the trophy. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

It was down to much more than that — and at the end of the day, Galway rightly deserved the win.

“We were disappointed with the first half,” the 2016 All-Ireland winning boss said. “There were too many frees given against us and it’s something I’d have to sit down and see why. I think it was nine frees in a row at one stage against us and I thought it was a little harsh on us but it wasn’t the losing and winning of the game either.

“We just weren’t hungry enough. Simple as that. Galway were. They wanted it more. They harried. They were out in front and often passed one of our girls to win it. You have to have it in your heart, you have to have that hunger and you have to have that drive and we just didn’t have it today.

“Having said that, we haven’t really been doing a lot of hurling. We’ve been in the gym. We’ve had our league games but it’s been impossible to get a pitch to play a little bit of hurling. But we’ve used a lot of young girls and we’ve gotten a lot from the league.

“Galway are a good team. Today, they put some great moves together and we just weren’t able to match them.”

- Additional reporting by Daragh Ó Conchúir for the Camogie Association. 

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Emma Duffy

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