Laura Ward aiming for All-Ireland final redemption against Oulart-The Ballagh

Camogie star Laura Ward is ready to do battle with reigning All-Ireland club champions Oulart-The Ballagh this Sunday in Croke Park. Photo: Sportsfile

Niall Scully

Defeat lingers like a shadow. “It’s the matches you lose that you’d be thinking about at night,” reveals Laura Ward.

In December, Ward’s club, Sarsfields of Galway, lost the AIB All-Ireland Senior Club Championship final to Oulart-The Ballagh. Now the same two teams will meet again in Sunday’s All-Ireland final at Croke Park (4.0).

“It’s not so much the wins that you dwell on, but the losses,” continues Ward. “You’d be going back over the game in your head. Analysing it. Thinking about what you could have done better. We were very down after the defeat. It was a strange Christmas, but we had the break and got back to it in January.

“It wasn’t so much the result that hurt so much but rather the fact that we didn’t leave it all out there. We just have to make sure we learn from that game now.

“One of the biggest factors was the slow start we made. Oulart came at us and we were left chasing our tails. We’ll have to make sure to get off to a better start this time.

“Oulart are an outstanding team. They have so much experience. They have a superb running game. It’s difficult to break them down, and they will be hard to beat.”

Last December’s final was played in Nowlan Park. Sunday’s contest from the Croke Park will also be live on RTÉ 2. So will the opening game of the double-bill – the All-Ireland Intermediate final between Salthill-Knocknacarra (Galway) and St Rynagh’s (Offaly) (2.0).

“Any day you get to play in Croke Park for your club is an amazing day,” Ward reflects.

She loved the game from the start. Her dad, Tony Ward, managed Galway to two All-Ireland senior camogie titles in 1996 and, 17 years later, in 2013. “Yes, we are steeped in it. It’s camogie talk non-stop here in the house,” she smiles.

The Galway side are hoping to repeat their All-Ireland success of 2019. “That was one of the best days of my life. I still remember it as if it was yesterday.

“The emotion we all felt when we went back home is one of the best experiences we’ll ever have in our entire lives. The people of the club were so proud of us. That’s what makes you want to do it again. For them.”

Before their success in 2019, Sarsfields lost the finals of 2016 and 2017. “For the last five years we have been knocking on the door. We won one, but we want more. Once you get that winning feeling, you always want more. There’s many more years in us. We are a young team.

“We have progressed so much from where we were five years ago, and now we hope we can bring all that knowledge into the final.”