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Ball Of Wool Kittens To Marauding Tigers

by Jimmy Rhatigan

What a beautiful evening it turned out to be in Croker on Sunday.
Beauty was the key word as Kilkenny and Galway clashed in the Littlewoods Camogie League Division 1 final.
The occasion was charming, gorgeous, terrific, sensational, delightful too; one can pile on the superlatives and still not do justice to a game that warmed hearts, stirred emotions and was a huge credit to the girls’ game.
It was a match that Galway bossed in phase one. But half two was a different story.
The black and amber had not sparked but after the half time intermission our girls went from kittens with a ball of wool to marauding tigers out hunting for prey.
After what may have been an Alex Ferguson-like half time team talk, Brian Dowling’s Kilkenny braves conjured up the purrfect storm that threatened to blow Galway all the way back to the Wild West.

The Kilkenny renaissance was awesome, akin to a thunder and lightning attack from which Galway had nowhere to shelter.
But, amazingly, as the Fat Lady was clearing her throat to sing The Rose of Mooncoin, the Galway Girls, with a combination of tenacity and skill somehow brought the tie back to level pegging as the possibility of a replay loomed large.
But the words second best have never featured in the Kilkenny girls’ dictionary. The Cats finished the game as they had started the second half and edged to a glorious victory to add to their All-Ireland win over the same opposition.
On an evening when the attendance was confined to 3,000 because of the pandemic, both teams had played starring roles in what might have been termed a party to welcome back fans, a new normal, fingers crossed.
The awkward 7.30pm throw-in time must have made life difficult for both players and supporter who faced work on the following morning.

It was far from ideal but such is the interest in inter-county camogie that the inconvenience was a mere blip on an evening when positivity and class were the dominant words.
No doubt there were girls on both teams who had work commitments so their sacrifice ‘for the cause’ was both brave, admirable and brilliant and whatever their mindset on a very special evening they certainly put on one of the finest displays of camogie ever witnessed in Croker or any other venue.
Those of us who are enjoying Euro Soccer Championships 2020 have been treated to a mix of excellent and mediocre matches so the camogie was a welcome infusion of love, passion and the kind of skills that could woo worldwide audience.
That the game was live on TV was surely a god-send.
Everyone was a winner, us couch potatoes, aficionados of the game of camogie and nosey parkers who just may have tuned in ‘for a gawk’.

The game was the winner. The level of skill was breath-taking, solo runs, high catches, great free taking.
The only losers were those who couldn’t get to Croke Park and didn’t turn on the telly.
That camogie is now one of Ireland’s top sports for entertainment there is no doubt.
Hopefully, when all supporters are allowed back into games, spectators will do themselves and the game a favour by going along to enjoy the silken skills of great athletes, girls who on the evidence of the Super Sunday final are now right up there with the finest in any of our sports.
What a breath of fresh air the game was.
And remember the league final was a mere appetizer before the championship feast.
After all the lockdowns, shutdowns and ‘don’t dos’ we finally have something special to open our hearts too.

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