KILKENNY BOSS BRIAN Dowling has hailed the effort of his players after slaying the ghost of All-Ireland finals past to reign supreme again.

The Cats dethroned Galway in an epic camogie decider, with Denise Gaule scoring 1-6 to seal a two-point victory at a crowdless Croke Park. Her tally included a penalty which she won late in the second half.

This was Kilkenny’s fifth final in-a-row and their seventh since 2013, having last lifted the O’Duffy Cup in 2016.

There was plenty of commentary around their three consecutive All-Ireland final defeats ahead of their showdown with Galway, and Dowling says this result will heal some of the hurt they suffered in previous years.

The devastation these girls have gone through the last three years. I’ve only been involved the last year. Going back into that dressing-room [last year] was absolutely cruel. 

“Back to the Red Cow Hotel, all the parents, everybody crying. Where do we go from here? We came back at the start of the year, a few of the girls didn’t know whether or not they were gonna come back, how could they face it again?”

He added:

I just felt there was a dark cloud hanging over this team for the last few years. It’s finally been lifted. It’s so hard losing All-Ireland finals. You analyse everything, look at everything. Just to get over the line, we didn’t care how we did it.

“If we had to win by two points to one, we’d have been over the moon leaving Croke Park tonight. We’re All-Ireland champions now and we’re going to enjoy it.”

Dowling celebrates at the full-time whistle.

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Dowling, a two-time senior All-Ireland winner during his time as a player, added that some important conversations took place at the start of the year to instil a belief that Kilkenny could make a charge for glory again this year.

He saluted Galway as worthy champions from 2019, and stressed that an impeccable performance would be required to dislodge the Tribeswomen. 

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“We knew Galway were a brilliant team, they’ve been great All-Ireland champions and I said it all week, this had to be our best performance or we wouldn’t be winning today. I think we did and at half-time, I just said ‘if we can get ahead, I think we’ll win it.’

Denise [Gaule] showed great composure with the penalty. I just felt all week we were gonna win today and sometimes it’s your time, and today was our time, thank God.”

The celebrations will be somewhat muted for Kilkenny, as they will have to go without a homecoming party due to Covid-19 restrictions. 

There was no crowd to applaud them at the final whistle, while families were forced to watch on nervously throught their TV sets at home.

It has been a camogie championship like no other, but Dowling’s smile beamed through as he offered a final few words to the media before returning to his players.

“We had a huge send-off from Kilkenny, and thanks to all the parents and families. It’s disappointing that they can’t be here with us today. I’m sure they’re proud shouting at the tellies at home in Kilkenny.”

“I’m sure they’ll be delighted whenever we get to see them. They can be very proud of those girls out there. It’s a pity they’re not here to celebrate with them. They’ve been here for the last three years and they’re the people who surrounded those girls in the disappointment.

I know everything is strange this year in 2020 but look, if you told me at the start of the year we’d be All-Ireland champions, I wouldn’t care if it was 25 December at 7 o’clock in the morning. Once we’re All-Ireland champions, that’s all that matters.”

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