– Emma Duffy reports from Croke Park
IT MUST BE pretty difficult to sum up the feeling of winning an All-Ireland title.
Victorious Galway manager Cathal Murray.
Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO
After his side produced an incredible display to get their hands on the O’Duffy Cup for the first time since 2013, Cathal Murray, like many others, found it tough to find the words.
But his immense pride in his side shone through with every sentence deep in the bowels of Croke Park after the Tribeswomen recorded a six-point victory over 2016 champions, and 2017, 2018 and now 2019 beaten finalists, Kilkenny.
“It is hard to put it into words,” Murray told the media in the press conference centre, deep in the bowels of Croke Park after the fierce battle which a record-breaking crowd of 24,730 watched in the flesh.
“Delighted for the girls, first and foremost, not just this year, but for the last few years. We knew coming up that if we got a performance we’d have a really, really good chance of winning it. Thank God, we got the performance.
“The work rate was exceptional, the intensity was huge. We took our chances and that was the difference.”
Murray, who now becomes just the second All-Ireland winning Galway senior camogie manager after Tony Ward in 1996 and 2013, added:
“Today is huge for Galway camogie. This is only our third. We don’t win too many. It was what the girls brought to it, their intensity, work-rate, they played as a team.
“They have a huge affinity with the fans now. We passed out so many supporters’ buses coming out today. It is great to get the following.”
In the build-up to today’s showdown, the Galway players have spoken over and over about the belief and confidence the management team instilled in the group this year, and Murray pinpoints winning league games against the top teams after a big pre-season set as the catalyst for all of that.
“Victories breed confidence and confidence breeds belief,” he smiled. “The girls have huge belief. We, the management, have had huge belief in the players since we came in.
“We always felt we had a team in the dressing room that was good enough to win an All-Ireland. Look it, they showed today they are capable of that.”
The winning Galway team.
Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO
Three first-half goals, courtesy of Ailish O’Reilly (two) and Niamh Hanniffy, into the Hill End were ultimately the difference, and Murray appreciates just how important they were.
Galway laid a solid foundation, and had much of the groundwork done with a six-point half-time lead.
“We didn’t score goals against Cork [in the semi-final] so to get three today was very, very pleasing,” he continued. “The first goal was huge for us because it was the first time this year that we actually got a good start and we’ve been leading after the first few minutes.
of the team
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“That was important because Kilkenny, obviously, were here for the last two. We needed to get a good start and we got that, thank God.
“Look, we had a couple of other chances and didn’t take them. There was good defending too to keep them out. But to get the goals before half-time was a real tonic. To go in a few points up at half-time was brilliant.”
Murray, who also managed the beaten intermediate team at HQ today, had huge praise for ‘exceptional’ Player of the Match, Niamh Kilkenny, and for his excellent set of defenders, but also for how his side reacted to the loss of key back Tara Kenny.
Kenny tore her cruciate in training, so half-forward Caitriona Cormican dropped back and excelled in marking Kilkenny big gun Anne Dalton, while Catherine Finnerty started.
“Very, very happy with how that went,” he said of the big move he was forced into. “Teeny did an unbelievable job. She can play anywhere for us. She had a huge effect on the game.
“It was a big choice to make as it was always going to pull a bit from the forwards. Catherine Finnerty came in and had an immense game. Her work rate was absolutely exceptional.
“Listen, it was tough on Tara Kenny. To do your cruciate nine days before an All-Ireland final is heartbreaking. It happened during last 15-a-side game before the All-Ireland, the first ball that went into her.”
Catherine Finnerty facing Grace Walsh.
Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO
Six points ahead at half time, Murray says he didn’t refer to what unfolded in second half of the intermediate final in the dressing room. There, his side were seven points up against Westmeath but Johnny Greville’s charges produced an immense comeback to win by two.
“I didn’t mention it,” he explained. “The girls did, though. You learn lessons from every game. Unfortunately, it was tough for the intermediates in the second-half of their game.
“But it was mentioned in the senior dressing-room that we couldn’t let the same thing happen and we had to start well in the second-half. And we did, in fairness.”
And for himself, what was it like to switch his focus straight after that intermediate loss before the senior throw-in?
“It was hard, alright, but you have to put that aside,” he concedes. “I tried to talk to as many of the intermediate girls on the field before I left.
“Listen, when you go into the senior dressing room, it was game face on. They were in the middle of the warm-up when I got in, the rest of the backroom team were in charge of the seniors and getting them ready.
“The girls, themselves, they’ve gone through a bit over the last few years. They haven’t been in a final since 2015. They were very focused today. It didn’t matter who was in the dressing-room with them today.
“They were really focused on getting a good start and getting a performance.”
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