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'We know each other well. It's always a battle' - All-Ireland finalists renew rivalry in league decider
Kilkenny and Galway will do battle in the Division 1 final later this evening.

SIX MONTHS ON from their unorthodox All-Ireland final in December, Kilkenny and Galway are contesting for silverware once again this evening [throw-in, 7.3opm].

niamh-kilkenny-and-anna-farrell Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

The 2019 league and All-Ireland champions versus the 2020 winners of the O’Duffy Cup in what will be the third decider meeting between the sides in three years.

It’s a special occasion for the wider camogie community too as 3,000 fans will be permitted to attend the game in Croke Park. The fixture was previously earmarked as a test event for the gradual return of spectators to live sports meetings, and this will be first game in over a year for many of the attendees. 

For the Cats, it’s an opportunity to continue their winning momentum before getting their All-Ireland defence underway later in the summer. However, they will also be heading to Croke Park with some key losses in personnel, including the loss of veteran forward Anne Dalton to retirement.

Katie Power, Claire Phelan and Collette Dormer are all injury doubts as well.

Galway have their motives too, and there’s more than just another trophy on the line forthe Tribeswomen.

Rinsing out the pain of that three-point defeat on a bitterly cold night in Croke Park must surely be at the forefront of their minds.

Championship matters for 2021 will be in their thoughts too. Both Galway and Kilkenny have been drawn in Group 3 alongside Clare and Westmeath with dates for their fixtures to come in due course.

This league final will be doubling up as a dress rehearsal.

“We had the chances that could have won it for us,” says Galway goalkeeper Sarah Healy as she recalls their thrilling All-Ireland final that went down to the wire.

“We know each other very well. It’s always a battle. It really just depends on who gets the luck of the bounce on the day.”

Galway were brought to extra-time by Cork in the semi-final before booking their ticket in the decider with a two-point victory.

Kilkenny completed the job in normal time against Tipperary in their last-four clash, but were forced to claw back from five points down in the closing stages.

Quickfire goals from Denise Gaule and Katie Nolan propelled them to a narrow victory at the death.

“We were very lucky to win,” admits Miriam Walsh who picked up her second All-Star award last year.

“We just haven’t really got going yet. I don’t know if it’s a lot of pressure on us from winning last year’s All Ireland. It’s early in the year, I still think there’s time for us to get going.

“I know Anne Dalton and Katie Power are huge losses so it’s just I need to kind of stand up and start being a leader on the team.

“And I know a few of the younger girls need to start standing up.”

It was reported this week that the unusual throw-in time for the game was influenced by RTÉ’s scheduling today. The broadcaster says the evening slot was the only one available for the camogie final due to the Euro 2020 coverage.

Both Healy and Walsh have expressed their understanding towards the decision and highlighted the importance of having their games on TV.

Littlewoods Ireland, who sponsor the camogie leagues, recently conducted some important research in this area. 

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littlewoods-ireland-camogie-leagues-finals-hurling-championship-launch-2021 Sam Barnes / SPORTSFILE Miriam Walsh and Sarah Healy. Sam Barnes / SPORTSFILE / SPORTSFILE

They found that 89% of the population cannot name a current inter-county camogie player. With that stat in mind, maximum exposure is crucial for the small ball game.

“I think it’s just about getting the games out there,” says Healy. “Getting people watching the games. They’ll hear the commentators calling out the names and it will build from that then. That statistic was shocking.

“It’s something that you have to try to improve on. I think Littlewoods are doing a great job on that, as the main sponsors of the last five years and that shows that they are really committed to camogie and that’s how we’re going to get it out there.

“Even streaming the matches in the League, they’re all over the county facebook pages. That will help to get it out there because people might tune in then.”

Littlewoods Ireland is proud to support both Camogie and Hurling for a 5th year running. The Littlewoods Ireland Camogie League final is live on RTE this Sunday the 20th June at 7.30pm while the Division 2, 3 and 4 finals will be streamed live on LWI_GAA Twitter.

The All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship begins Saturday 26th of June #StyleOfPlay.

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