Ailish O’Reilly: ‘All the talk about Kilkenny suited us down to the ground’

Ailish O’Reilly: ‘All the talk about Kilkenny suited us down to the ground’

Ailish O’Reilly was as forceful in her words as she had been in her actions on the field.

The 25-year-old Galway forward tormented Collette Dormer, Kellyann Doyle and, indeed, the entire Kilkenny defence during a first half where she twice found the net and was desperately unlucky not to grab a hat-trick as her groundstroke in injury-time was well kept out by ‘keeper Emma Kavanagh.

The pre-match conversation had centred on the potency of the Kilkenny attack — they hit 16 goals in their five games en route to the final — and how they might rip apart Galway’s rearguard.

O’Reilly had heard such chatter and to say she was irked by it would be something of an understatement.

“There was a lot of talk about the Kilkenny forwards [beforehand], but every time we ran at them, we looked dangerous,” she said.

“We beat them in the league final and yet all the talk was they beat us in the first round of the championship. What was the point of giving anything away then? We were definitely going to have to play them again.

“We beat Cork by a point [in the All-Ireland semi-final] but, again, all the talk was about Kilkenny. That suited us down to the ground. I think we’ve proved a lot of people wrong today. The strategy today was to play it down the middle. Thankfully, we got on the breaking ball and it paid off.”

Yesterday was the first championship game this year where Kilkenny failed to mine a green flag. They were held by a Galway defence, claimed O’Reilly, who rarely get the dues they deserve.

“Caitriona [Cormican] went back and you would barely even know that Anne Dalton was in the game.

“I don’t think our backs have gotten enough credit all year. We showed what we’re capable of. We beat Cork and we beat Kilkenny so I think we deserve this one.”

O’Reilly, who was picking up her second All-Ireland medal, one which her 87-year-old grandmother was present for, also paid tribute to the management for the belief they have instilled in this group.

“Whatever Cathal [Murray] has done this year with our team; whatever is thrown at us, we were going to come back fighting even two times harder.

“We were losing to Cork and Kilkenny at the semi-final stage in recent years, but this year that wasn’t going

happening.

“The 2013 final win feels like a lifetime ago. I was vomiting all that morning and I flew off on Erasmus a few days later so I didn’t appreciate it enough. By God am I going to enjoy this one.”

Kilkenny manager Ann Downey, meanwhile, reckoned the fear of losing another final constrained her players. Given Kilkenny had lost four of the last six finals coming into yesterday, she was somewhat at odds to explain their failure to match Galway’s hunger.

“We got within two points of them but never closer. They were never going to leave us in for a goal, it was impossible. They swarmed us and they were hungrier than us,” began the Kilkenny boss.

“I’ve no idea why [they were hungrier than us]. Maybe, it was that they haven’t been here for so long. We were here the last few years and, maybe, our players were so afraid of losing that they weren’t able to express themselves. Maybe that fear just held our girls back. I know they’ll be disappointed with their performances.

“Maybe the end of the line is nearer for some of our older players from last year and that holds you back [too], but I couldn’t ask any more of any of them. They’re trained so hard and given such commitment.”

For Downey, who sighed “déjà vu” when entering the media room, it was easy to pinpoint where this All-Ireland was won and lost.

“The three goals killed us. They all came from their puckouts that were landing on our centre-back and then they were winning the breaking ball. And from that their centre-field was doing the overlap. We just didn’t contain it.

“In fairness, Galway hunted in packs today and we didn’t.”

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