'It was torture, so disappointing... We never want to feel like that again'

Kilkenny captain Shelly Farrell hopes that her side can right the wrongs of last year’s All-Ireland camogie final as they face Cork again.

SHELLY FARRELL COULDN’T face watching her Kilkenny side’s one-point All-Ireland senior camogie final defeat to Cork last September back for a long, long time.

The Kilkenny team watch the trophy presentation The Kilkenny team watch on during the presentation. Oisin Keniry / INPHO Oisin Keniry / INPHO / INPHO

Absolute and utter heartbreak. 

Substitute Julia White broke the Cats’ hearts in the seventh minute of stoppage time in the Croke Park showdown as they snatched the O’Duffy Cup from the holders’ grasp.

As the clock hit 60 minutes, Gemma O’Connor stepped up with a huge, huge effort to pull Cork level and the game looked to be heading for a replay as the minutes ran down.

Farrell thought so herself. 

But no. Then came that moment of magic.

“It was a brilliant point,” she admits, the pain still evident in her voice.

“I’ve seen a picture of it since and there was three girls around her. Their hurls were literally beside hers and she still got it away so it was a pretty amazing score.”

But the real feelings take over as she reflects on that loss, that winning point with the last puck at the very death. “It was torture, so disappointing.”

Julia White scores the winning point late in injury time Julia White scores the winning point. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Work and club commitments took her mind off the defeat as life went back to normal in the days that followed. She did her best to steer clear from the bad memories of 10 September and one way to do so was not to watch the match back.

She had to face it eventually though and that came as the team returned to training in the New Year. Ann Downey’s charges bundled into a room in Nowlan Park, hit play and relived the heartbreak. Just once. They talked it out afterwards, and then put it in the past for good.

“That was it, put it behind us,” the Thomastown forward continues.

“I hadn’t watched it before that at all, I stayed away from it. I’d seen clips of it maybe but not the full match but we all sat down together that time, went through different things that went wrong and right and said we’d park it then and look at this as a new year.

“There was nothing else said for the rest of the year, even leading up to the league final.”

Of course, April’s Division 1 league decider saw the top two go head-to-head once again. It ended with Farrell lifting the cup as Kilkenny secured three in-a-row.

Kathleen Woods with Shelly Farrell Lifting the 2018 Division 1 crown. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Sunday will be the sides’ fourth championship final meeting in five years, the Rebels winning three of those. Interestingly though, last Septembers’ one-point victory put an end to Kilkenny’s double-double dream.

The rivalry is a famous one. It’s the one that springs to mind when you think of camogie these days. 

“We played Galway in 2013 and Cork ever since so we’re used to playing each other in All-Ireland finals,” she explains, when the rivalry between the counties is brought up.

“There is a bit of rivalry there, every team has that. There’s maybe more rivalry between Cork and Clare. It’s just because we’ve met each other the All-Irelands there’s a big hype about it.” 

Kilkenny have been tried and tested plenty since that one-point league final win in which they let a 10-point lead slip, coming through a tough round-robin group in the All-Ireland championship from there.

Shelly Farrell Shelly Farrell. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

She earmarks their opening match with Limerick as one they took real confidence from. Down at half time, they came back out and turned on the style on the restart and produced a superb comeback performance.

They topped the group but came through some serious battles on their way to the semi-final against Galway, another tight encounter settled predominantly by Katie Power’s 48th-minute goal.

“They were very tough,” she reflects on the clashes, “and it was good to get a tough group because we were pushed to our collar at times and it showed the strength we have in the panel and the spirit between the girls.

“Even the semi-final against Galway, they were so physical. It took us 10 to 20 minutes to really get into the match. It was like being hit by a bus but it was very good to get those tough matches, otherwise you don’t know where you stand and you learn a lot more from matches like that.”

She agrees that her side were nervy that day, they struggled to an extent but that goal sent them on their way.

Shelly Farrell In action in the 2016 decider. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

“You just want to get back to an All-Ireland (final),” she adds.

“You’re thinking we have to get over the line, it doesn’t really matter how you do it. You just want to get over the line and thankfully we did.”

They’re back to being the hunter rather than hunted. Chasing the O’Duffy Cup rather than defending it. It’s a different perspective but either way, there’s always hunger.

Bouncing back from that heartbreaking defeat on the biggest stage in Gaelic games last September has been difficult. Putting it all behind them as they try to get back to where they were is no easy feat.

But they’re there now. One more step. 60 minutes of action.

“It’s tough,” she concedes as she looks back to the earlier stages of the year.

“It’s so long, you think the year is never going to come. Once the championship starts it flies, with matches every two weeks, but at the start of the year when you go back training it’s very hard to get going again.

Shelly Farrell Farrell at a recent Kilkenny media event. Oisin Keniry / INPHO Oisin Keniry / INPHO / INPHO

“But then you think about the loss and you never want to feel like that again. You just want to push on. Thank God we’ve had that success in 2016, we know what that feels like. Then there was last year and we felt so bad after it that we never want to feel like that again.

“I dunno did we take it for granted maybe a bit last year but we definitely have left no stone unturned this year. We’ve trained harder than ever. We just have to do the same in a match now.

“We really need to push on.”

- With reporting from Fintan O’Toole

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