Galway's energiser bunny gets up from the knocks to bring the O'Duffy Cup home
Galway 1-15 Cork 1-12
The ball hadn't even been thrown-in but Aoife Donohue was already face-flat in the grass, nursing a dunt in the back.
Aishling Thompson had just nailed into her and if Donohue didn't know before, as she got back to her feet gingerly, she certainly knew then that this was going to be one hell of a battle. Donohue is an artist, she is a flyer and in top form, there is no faster, smarter or livelier camogie player in the country but on Aishling Thompson, it's a different ball-game. That's meant as nothing other than a compliment to the Milford player, who, with her brilliant reading of the game and intense physicality, ensures it's always a tough day out.
That wasn't the last time Donohue was panned out but it wasn't the last time she got up either. In midfield they started but all over the field they roamed and whenever Donohue had a purple patch, what with her blistering runs and wizard-like ball-control, Thompson would bounce back to win another break, to give another perfect pass for what without doubt, made for one of the match-ups of the year.
So while it was Thompson who brought the fire to those early exchanges, it was Galway who brought the pace and the poise as they scorched their way into a four point lead. If their tactic was to find Siobhán McGrath and to find her in space, then in the first few minutes, it was notable that they had carried this game-plan out to near military precision. Twice in the first five minutes Niamh Kilkenny just hammered the ball into green grass but that's what Siobhán McGrath loves and into the open country she flew, around the Cork cover she ghosted and for early points she split those posts.
Mightn't come across fully on television but the amount of ground Aoife Donohue covered in that half was something incredible. Knocks, belts and bruises but she stays goingpic.twitter.com/l5SePnKrZQ
— GAA JOE (@GAA__JOE) September 12, 2021
Their forwards were clicking and the backs were at the races too because if you ever caught a glimpse of Dervla Higgins, she was thundering onto the ball, into breaks and out of defence. Cork have a lethal set of attackers but in this kind of fired up mood and with Dervan and Healy like rocks by her side, Cork were always going to have a tough time breaking through.
To give them their dues, they made a fair fist of it with Hannah Looney running from deep and scoring from distance. Amy O'Connor too, looked dangerous any time she got on the ball but that was the brilliant thing about Galway. They worked so hard all over the field that any time Cork got it, they were under ferocious pressure which, more often than not, forced them out to places they never wanted to go.
At the break Galway led by one and deservedly so but with Cork, there was always going to be a sting in the tail. The long-awaited introduction of Linda Collins turned the game in their favour with the Courcey Rovers dynamo adding composure, energy and an appetite to win those breaks. It was the captain's pace and power that set-up Katrina Mackey for the goal that looked like it would be Cork's winner. All the while, Orla Cronin was moving up through the gears, Thompson was doing what she does and Collins, she looked like a player who should have been starting.
It was only with the concession of this goal though and the realisation that this game was moving away from them that Galway really started to hurl. From three points down, Niamh Kilkenny was the main trailblazer in the revival, inspiring her team with a couple of powerful bursts up the field and a pair of beautiful points. Alongside her, Donohue was down and she must have been out about five times in total but every one of those times the Mullagh player got back up and she got Galway going again.
It was this refusal to die, along with some brilliant play from Ailish O'Reilly that set up Siobhán McGrath for the goal from where they'd never look back. Her sister Orlaith iced the cake with two late points and it wasn't long before Mundy and Sharon Shannon were ringing around Croke Park, because the Galway girls were bringing the O'Duffy Cup home.
Mundy and Sharon Shannon ring out around Croke Park as the Galway girls lift the O'Duffy Cup once more pic.twitter.com/aUj8pZX3zs
— GAA JOE (@GAA__JOE) September 12, 2021
Sarah Healy, Shauna Healy, Sarah Dervan, Dervla Higgins, Siobhán Gardiner, Emma Helebert, Caitríona Cormican, Aoife Donohue (0-1), Niamh Kilkenny (0-2), Catherine Finnerty, Sarah Spellman, Carrie Dolan (0-5f) , Siobhán McGrath (1-2), Orlaith McGrath (0-2), Ailish O’Reilly (0-1)
Subs: Niamh Hanniffy for Catherine Finnerty (HT,) Rebecca Hennelly for Carrie Dolan (50), Noreen Coen for Sarah Spellman (60)
Amy Lee, Pamela Mackey, Libby Coppinger, Saoirse McCarthy, Laura Treacy, Laura Hayes, Hannah Looney (0-2), Aishling Thompson (0-1), Chloe Sigerson (0-2, 0-1f), Fiona Keating, Ciara O’Sullivan, Katrina Mackey (1-1), Amy O’Connor (0-1), Orla Cronin (0-5, 0-4f)
Subs: Linda Collins for Ciara O'Sullivan (36), Cliona Healy for Fiona Keating (58)