In the Division 1 final Kilkenny and Galway take 100% records into their clash, with both sides winning their respective groups. Ann Downey’s Kilkenny were placed in the tougher group but came through unscathed, taking the scalps of Cork, Dublin and All-Ireland champions Wexford en route to the Final.
Despite this Kilkenny captain, Marie O’Connor, knows the challenge that lies ahead against Galway. “”We’re under no illusions about the task that faces us. People say that we had the tougher side of the draw but Galway had a mighty win against Tipperary so they will be up for it. They are a skilful, physical side that would cause any team in the country trouble so we are on high alert for this one.””
While this is a return to form for Kilkenny who have been out of the limelight for several years, O’Connor believes there is a lot more to come from her side. “”The league is massive for us. We see it as the first step towards an historic three-title year; the League, the Leinster Championship and the All-Ireland Championship and we want to prove what we’re made of,”” O’Connor said.
Galway had an easier time in their group recording victories over newcomers Limerick and an excellent win over Tipperary. Former Galway goalkeeper and All-Ireland winner Liam Donoghue has taken the helm of the Tribeswomen this year and turned around the team in a relatively short period of time.
Galway captain, Sinead Cahalan, is the first one to recognise Donoghue’s contribution. “”I can’t underestimate the impact Liam Donoghue has had on the squad this year. He’s a massive inspiration to everybody involved with the team. The fact that he played hurling at the highest level is a major help when coaching. He knows how players feel about training and matches and has brought a very professional aspect to camogie in Galway.””
Cahalan believes that the new atmosphere around the team will reap benefits for her side this season. “”The days of ‘great to play for Galway is enough’ attitude are gone. We want to win this game; we want to have something to show for our efforts. The league is important to us, we want this in the bag so we can go to Limerick in the Championship full of confidence.””
The Division 2 Final sees Derry take on Clare in a repeat of last year’s Gala All-Ireland Junior Final, where the Ulster side won the game with a last minute goal.
Both games take place on Saturday with the Division 1 Final taking place in Nowlan Park at 3.00pm.