Kilkenny inspirational for Tribeswomen as goal burst tames Cats
Galway 3-14 Kilkenny 0-17, Liberty Insurance All Ireland Senior Camogie Final
Another heartbreaking All-Ireland final defeat for Kilkenny, this time visited upon them by a Galway side showing ravenous hunger, winning their first title since 2013 and only their third ever.
They laid the foundations with three first-half goals, including two in a three-minute spell approaching half-time.
A spirited second-half performance from Anne Downey's side reduced a seven-point deficit to just two, but Galway found a timely second wind in the latter exchanges.
It marked a third successive All-Ireland final defeat for Downey's Kilkenny and it is impossible not to feel sympathy.
They were applauded for a more attack-minded game-plan this season, ditching the sweeper strategy which had contributed to low-scoring finals in the last two years. The previous two finals produced no goals; in the first half alone yesterday Kilkenny conceded three.
No team will be in the pillory for bravery and they did not lack that, recovering with a much improved second-half performance which will have been of some consolation.
As well as being their third successive All-Ireland final loss, this was Kilkenny's fifth defeat in recent years, having been in six of the last seven finals.
Galway owe a great deal of gratitude to Niamh Kilkenny, who gave a midfield exhibition. They lost momentum after the interval but the interventions of the richly gifted Kilkenny helped steady the team's nerve and provide vital composure, eventually inspiring a late decisive rally.
Galway led 3-7 to 0-10 at half-time and could have had at least two more goals, with late addition to the team, Catherine Finnerty, misfiring when put through by Noreen Coen in the 18th minute.
Just before half-time Kellyann Doyle saved on the goal line from Sarah Spellman. Finnerty had a fine match, replacing the unfortunate Tara Kenny, Galway's wing-back, who suffered a cruciate injury in training only days before.
Having already defeated Kilkenny in the league final, and eliminated reigning All-Ireland champions Cork, Galway got off to a dream start.
Ailish O'Reilly, picked out by Kilkenny, drove a merciless shot past Emma Kavanagh in the second minute.
Kilkenny settled with sublime scores from Denise Gaule and Davina Tobin, before two from Michelle Quilty had the teams level with 12 minutes played. By the 20th minute they were two points up, 0-9 to 1-4.
When Quilty landed a 46-metre free in the 22nd minute, they led 0-10 to 1-5, but then failed to score again until five minutes into the second half.
Before the break Galway hit 2-2 without reply, their second goal arriving in the 26th minute, a strike on the ground by Niamh Hanniffy after good approach play by Spellman and O'Reilly.
Two minutes later, Kilkenny were reeling when they conceded a third. Galway's star player, Kilkenny, broke through and fed O'Reilly who hammered home her second. A '45 from Carrie Dolan, who finished with 0-6, had them leading by six points at the interval.
Dolan extended the lead three minutes after the restart to seven points and from that unpromising position Kilkenny started their climb.
Anne Dalton, after a quiet first half, began to impact and at the back they eliminated the Galway goal threat.
They hit four points without reply by the 43rd minute. One of those, from Miriam Walsh, had its origins in a great fetch by the impressive Claire Phelan, who along with Grace Walsh, showed tremendous resistance and leadership after half-time. Anna Farrell's score, the last of the sequence, left only a goal between the sides.
Which was precisely when Niamh Kilkenny took a sweet delivery from goalkeeper Sarah Healy entering the final quarter and hit a huge score after receiving the ball in the middle of the field.
It was a relief to Galway but two inspiring scores from Dalton had Kilkenny rising to the challenge, and another from Gaule left them within two points with 51 minutes played.
The pressure on Galway showed in a missed free by Dolan but Kilkenny would fail to score for the remainder as Galway hit the last four points. Two of those were from Niamh Kilkenny, crowning a brilliant display.
The attendance of 24,730 was up from 21,467 on last year, and declared a record for a stand-alone All-Ireland final fixture.
Scorers - Galway: C Dolan 0-6 (4f, 2 '45s); A O'Reilly 2-0; N Kilkenny 0-4; N Hanniffy 1-0; C Finnerty, S Spellman, N Coen, Sarah Healy (f) 0-1. Kilkenny: 0-8 (7f); D Gaule 0-3 (1f); A Dalton 0-2 (1f); D Tobin, A Farrell, M Walsh, A Doyle 0-1.
Galway - Sarah Healy; Shauna Healy, S Dervan, H Cooney; L Ryan, E Helebert, C Cormican; A Donohue, N Kilkenny; C Dolan, S Spellman, N Coen; C Finnerty, N Hanniffy, A O'Reilly. Subs: A Starr for Coen (43 mins); R Hennelly for Spellman (50).
Kilkenny - E Kavanagh; C Dormer, C Foley, E Keane; K Doyle, C Phelan, G Walsh; M Farrell, D Tobin; A Farrell, K Power, A Dalton; M Quilty, M Walsh, D Gaule. Subs: A Doyle for Keane (28); D Morrissey for Doyle (56).
Ref - R Kelly (Kildare)