What is it about Galway? The hurlers have produced hordes of talented players over the years, laden down with All-Ireland medals at colleges’, minor, U21 and club level. Yet when it comes to getting the job done in the biggest stage, they have not been able to put in an award-winning performance since 1988 writes Daragh Ó Conchúir.
The camogie team has a similar profile. After making the breakthrough in 1996 when winning their first (and only) senior title, they lost the next two finals to Cork. It took 10 years to return to the decider and again the Leesiders dashed their hopes.
Wexford had just two points to spare when defeating Galway in the 2010 and 2011 finals. What made those results even more galling was that the Tribeswomen had the upper hand when the sides met in the round-robin stages both seasons.
And so, they get asked about it all the time; the question that will linger until the job is done.Is this going to be the year Galway wins the Liberty Insurance senior camogie championship for just the second time?
“I know” smiles Lorraine Ryan. “We’re going back to the start again. Hopefully. We’ve been brought down to earth again after last year. We’d an awful disappointing loss to Cork and it took a while to get over that.
“I think we learned something from it and this year we’re just going to focus on one game at the time and see what happens.”
The sole survivor from ’96 Veronica Curtin has retired (“she gave an awful lot to Galway camogie”), while ace free-taker Aislinn Connolly (work) and Tara Rutledge (studies) also ruled themselves out this year.
But this is Galway. As well as the likes of the long-serving Therese Maher and Ann Marie Hayes, players of the calibre of Ryan and Brenda Hanney who are now well established, and a plethora of intermediates and minors coming through the ranks, there remains “a good mix”.
Ryan believes that a salutary lesson was learned in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final defeat by Cork. She hints that they might have gotten a little ahead of themselves, been so motivated by slaying Wexford that they took their eye off the ball.
They would have been reminded by the need to be utterly focussed by losing their opening match of this year’s campaign to Kilkenny, but chiselling out a two-point win against the four-in-a-row chasing Wexford last weekend got the show back on the road. Saturday’s trip to Cusack Park to play a Clare team with a similar record in this hugely competitive group, is critical.
“I think last year’s All-Ireland semi-final was a real turning point because we’d been in the All-Ireland the year before, and the year before and you nearly expect to try and do it again.
“That kick last year in the semi-final, when we didn’t perform at all… to lose (a chance of) an All-Ireland final, to be still in it with 10 minutes to go and having played so bad, it’s awful hard to take.
“If you could think that you put everything in it and came off the field saying you couldn’t have done anymore, you’d say something. But we didn’t. We came off the field absolutely disgusted.
“That definitely brought us down to earth an awful lot and we probably learned more from that than we ever will. We had to start from scratch.”
Team trainer, Liam Hodgins knows all about disappointment from his time with Galway. Like Ryan, a former All-Star, captain and resolute defender, Hodgins never got to taste the ultimate success. But he is accentuating the importance of the now.
“He talks about big-match days, how physical you have to be and up with the pace of the game. But he brings everything back to the basic skills first. That’s what we will continue to work on and if the big days come, we’ll deal with them then.”