One of the first phone calls Ann Downey made upon returning as Kilkenny camogie manager earlier this year was to 21-year old Julie Ann Malone.
Downey had coached Malone at WIT and despite the latter’s prominence when picking up four county senior medals with her native Mullinavat, Malone had been overlooked by recent Kilkenny managements both at senior and intermediate level.
Downey brought the student nurse into the senior squad and made her a permanent fixture in the half-forward line. On Sunday after noon, the young forward repaid the faith shown in her — Malone hit four points from play on her Croke Park debut to garner the player of the match crystal.
“I wasn’t even born in 1994 when we last won the camogie prior to Sunday. I wasn’t even here in 2014 when both the senior and intermediate teams were beaten in finals. This is my first year on the panel and this win is absolutely brilliant,” said Malone.
“I am absolutely delighted and there is no better feeling in the world. The two points in the first-half settled me and it just went from there.
“The focus is on camogie this year in Kilkenny so that is good. It is brilliant to get the league and championship double in the bag. The intermediates winning too makes this extra special. We are absolutely delighted.”
Kilkenny entered Sunday’s decider having lost three of the previous seven All-Ireland finals.
The more experienced players in the squad, she said, had informed the younger members of Downey’s panel that Croke Park was the one venue you didn’t want to leave empty-handed.
“I don’t know the heartache of it. What the girls have said about those days, though, you can only imagine the hurt and how tough it would have been to go through. Those previous losses were mentioned. The hunger from the girls really rubbed off on all of us who were in our first year on the panel.
“Our work-rate and determination was good. Every one of us was fighting to the end, 22 years is a very long time to be waiting for an All-Ireland. We had the team this year to win it so it is brilliant that we delivered.”
Downey, as expected, was fulsome in her praise of Kilkenny’s star pupil.
“Julie Ann is a full-forward, a goal poacher. She was out of her comfort zone in where we asked her to play. She worked hard, though, and had a superb game.”
In the latest Irish Examiner GAA Podcast, Mary White, Anna Geary, Sarah O’Donovan, Linda Mellerick and Elaine Aylward join Peter McNamara, Rory Noonan and Larry Ryan to discuss Kilkenny’s All-Ireland senior camogie final win over Cork.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved