IT WAS an emotional Ann Downey who fronted the press corps after Kilkenny ended a 22-year famine to win the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Championship title yesterday.
“My first thought really is about my father because the last time we were here, he was here with us” she revealed.
“I know he was spurring us on today, he was such a Camogie follower and loved the game. I know he'd be delighted for me.
“And then for the girls, the work that they've put in. They're such lovely girls to work with, regardless of what we asked them to do, no arrogance about them. They took the correction and worked hard and I'm just delighted they've made their own history.
“In 2009, the girls were very young. If you look at their average age today, it's 25. Anne (Dalton), Denise (Gaule), Katie Power and all those girls were on that team. I suppose we're just disappointed that they didn't win one before today but they stayed with it and gave the commitment and they've got their reward today and they've made their own history.
“Cork are a brilliant team, going for three-in-a-row. They had been playing very well and we just had to break down what they had been doing. We had our few match-ups and they really worked well.
“We've listened about Gemma (O’Connor) and Gemma is a great player, Briege Corkery, Rena Buckley, the Mackey sisters, they have such talent around the place but we just couldn't have Gemma dominating today.
“Having said that, she was on the ball a fair bit and that but our girls just closed her down and worked hard and that's really the secret of the success today.”
Nobody was happier that she would no longer be the last Kilkenny captain to lift the O’Duffy Cup.
“Yeah, it was a monkey on my back alright, to be quite honest. I had to keep reminding the girls at training that I was kind of sick of it and that. I'm just happy that they've made their own history themselves.
“It's so different (winning as manager). Once they go out onto the pitch, what can you do? They're on their own, you can't do anything about it when they're out on the pitch. If you're playing yourself you can make a run or try to do something. Today, I'm just delighted. It's a moment in time, something that will live with me forever.
“In ‘94 who would have ever said that we'd have had to wait 22 years for another All-Ireland? I just can't believe it. There's some great Camogie players that have gone and haven't won All-Irelands. But as I said, this crowd of girls that we had today and the panel we had stuck with us and believe in us and that's what it was about.”
Downey accepted that some players had to put their preferences to one side for the greater good of the team.
“Davina Tobin had to sacrifice her game because she has great speed. But we didn’t have a full-back. Davina is usually number seven and went in full-back without any hesitation.
“We played most of the league with Anne Dalton at number 12 and Anne didn’t take too kindly to have to go back centre-back, if we’re being quite honest. We had to talk her around it for the Offaly game.
“She said to me one night, ‘I won’t win an All-Ireland playing at centre-back’. We needed her there because Edwina (Keane) was struggling during the year because she was back studying in college. We just felt she was a little bit off the pace. When Anne Dalton went at centre-back, Edwina really came into her own and had a great season after.
Meanwhile, Downey, Paddy Mullally and Conor Phelan used their knowledge of WIT to bring Julie Ann Malone into the squad for the first time and she ended up scoring four points to be named Liberty Insurance Player of the Match.
“We had Julie Ann down in WIT. She really is a full-forward, to be honest. This was her first year on the Senior panel. She has won a good few Leinster Championships with Mullinavat. Julie Ann is a goal poacher and I suppose she was out of her comfort zone in where we asked her to play (at centre-forward). She had a superb game.
“They are all well able to play, right down to number 30 on the panel. We actually had 31 but Kate McDonald had to emigrate for Dubai for work.”
So many had played their part. Now the celebrations could begin.