Tuesday 17 September 2019

Aisling Maher: 'Galway's cool heads and superior tactics swing thrilling decider their way'


2019; Lorraine Ryan, left, Heather Cooney, centre, Sarah Dervan of Galway with the O'Duffy Cup following their All-Ireland final victory over Kilkenny at Croke Park. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
2019; Lorraine Ryan, left, Heather Cooney, centre, Sarah Dervan of Galway with the O'Duffy Cup following their All-Ireland final victory over Kilkenny at Croke Park. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Aisling Maher

First up, that was the best camogie final we've had in years. Everyone wanted a high-scoring game and we had three goals by half-time and the record crowd then saw a second half that was score-for-score.

Losing three finals in a row is a killer but I don't think Kilkenny can have any complaints. Galway outperformed them in every sector of the pitch and Niamh Kilkenny was just phenomenal in the middle of the park.

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You couldn't argue, given Kilkenny's recent history, that Galway wanted it more, but they translated that want into better work-rate and desire and hunger and, tactically, you'd have to say Cathal Murray got it spot on.

From the very start Galway dropped every puck-out straight down on the Kilkenny centre-back position and all their forwards bunched in there.

That sucked in all the Kilkenny backs and then someone would peel out of it and find space in behind.

It was very well rehearsed. Even Catherine Finnerty, the sub who started for Tara Kenny, almost got a goal from it.

Ailish O'Reilly had a massive impact in the first half with her two goals. I noticed Edwina Keane had heavy strapping on and they brought her off so that probably didn't help.

O'Reilly actually could have had a third and even though she was quieter in the second half she was still taking up a lot of Kilkenny attention. What really surprised me was that Kilkenny went more defensive. All year they've put their best players forward and just outscored everyone.

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They were six points down and needed a goal so I couldn't understand that, especially dropping Anne Dalton back deeper when they needed someone like her to push on. I know they needed to react to Galway's goals but you'd wonder was that the right decision?

You'd have expected Tara Kenny to be a huge loss to Galway, especially if it was as late as Thursday night's training, which is what we've heard.

But Caitriona Cormican did brilliantly. She moved back to mark Dalton who, like a lot of Kilkenny forwards, was really unremarkable for a lot of this game.

Miriam Walsh actually started well on Sarah Dervan, she nearly had her sent off. She got her a yellow card and a tick early on but then Kilkenny switched Walsh out of half-forward which didn't make sense to me.

Michelle Quilty didn't really feature in the second-half, Denise Gaule was in and out of it and Katie Power was very quiet. Anna Farrell made a lot of good runs and was probably the most noticeable of Kilkenny's forwards.

I was surprised that Kilkenny didn't bring Danielle Morrissey in earlier because you'd think she could have made a difference. They also put on Aoife Doyle for Edwina Keane and then took her off 20 minutes later. That's unusual.

Kilkenny looked like they were playing that 'corridor system' that Cork used to play, where you play a line down the centre, send the ball down the wings and it's a foot-race to the side.

The problem was that they weren't winning the foot races. We all expected Kilkenny to be hungrier but Galway were the hungrier.

I'd say what happened in the intermediate final, where they were seven points up at half-time and lost, actually helped Galway not to be complacent at the break.

They showed that same calmness and composure that they'd shown all year, like when Kilkenny scored two goals against them in the league final and Cork came back at them in the semi-final.

When Kilkenny were trying to mount a comeback and got it back to two points, they showed such maturity to keep the scoreboard ticking over.

At that stage Niamh Kilkenny worked so hard and got a couple of unbelievable scores, including that great one off her left towards the end. Herself and Aoife Donohue really won the match-up in midfield which was key.

Shauna Healy at corner-back was also brilliant. Near the end, when Katie Power and another Kilkenny player were on the ball over on the sideline, she dispossessed the two of them three or four times and forced the ball out over the line.

It was a brilliant toe-to-toe game and the referee contributed to that. He let it go and some of the hits were huge but no one was complaining. That's what players want.

I don't see a chunk of the Kilkenny players going. I really believe there's another few years in their older ones but I wouldn't be surprised if Ann Downey goes. She's been there a long time, they might need a fresh voice now and she may consider it time to call it a day.

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