Twice in the previous four years Wexford had been to Croke Park on this, camogie’s biggest day, and won (2007, 10). Twice in the same period Galway had been there and lost (2008, 2010).
In last year’s final Galway had left their challenge until too late and lost by two points. This time, and despite the concession of an early penalty goal (the dangerous Kate Kelly brought down by Therese Manton after a surging run into the red-zone, blasted home by Una Leacy), they dominated possession for practically the whole game, on top on both their own puckouts and on Wexford’s.
And still they lost, the same bitter margin of defeat. Can they complain? No.
Ultimately, game on the line, it was Wexford’s conviction that saw them through, it was Galway’s own distinct lack of same that cost them, and cost them dearly, a fact generously if ruefully acknowledged by Galway manager Noel Finn.
“We were three points up but couldn’t push on, missed a few scores to put us four or five points in front and that was probably the difference,” he said.
“Fair play to them, they’re All-Ireland champions and they showed why. The break of a ball, that was the difference between the two sides.”
Wexford had a tonic start, a penalty goal drilled home by Leacy in the fourth minute after the flying Kelly had been brought down, but thereafter it was Galway winning most of the individual battles.
Their half-back line of Ann Marie Hayes, Therese Maher (brilliant all through) and Heather Cooney was well in control, midfielders Niamh Kilkenny and Ann-Marie Starr were also going well, with the result that the half-time score of 1-2 to 0-3, with Wexford ahead, looked decidedly flattering for the champions.
The change of ends also saw a quick change of fortunes.
Two points inside two minutes, one each from Noreen Coen and the flying Tara Ruttledge, tied the game and when Ruttledge goaled with a screamer off the ground in the 38th minute, Galway looked to be headed for that long-awaited second title. This, however, was one of the times alluded to by Finn.
Though still winning good possession, Galway weren’t able to capitalise, and Wexford points from midfielder Josie Dwyer and corner-forward Lenny Holohan soon had the deficit back to just one point, 1-5 to 1-4.
Again Galway pushed out to a three-point lead, Niamh Kilkenny and Aislinn Connolly with the points, but again they failed to push on, balls dropped short, one bad wide.
In the next few minutes the sides exchanged points, an Ursula Jacob free for Wexford, sub Orla Kilkenny with the reply for Galway.
Then, in rapid succession, a couple of game-changing moments.
In the 52nd minute a shot from the outstanding Ruttledge came back off an upright but Galway had no one alert to the break and the ball was safely cleared. Within seconds, down at the other end, a throw-in ball on the left sideline, won by the Dwyer, centred to Ursula Jacob at full-forward, who leaped, grabbed, turned and buried an unstoppable shot past the magnificent Susan Earner.
On such margins do big games turn. In the final minutes Jacob and Wexford tacked on two points — game won, game lost. All so sweet for Wexford, all so bitter for Galway.
Scorers for Wexford: U Jacob 1-5 (4f); U Leacy 1-0; L Holohan, J Dwyer 0-1 each.
Scorers for Galway: T Ruttledge 1-1; A Connolly 0-2 (1f); N Kilkenny (45), N Coen, M Conroy, V Curtin, O Kilkenny 0-1 each.
WEXFORD: M D’Arcy; C O’Connor, C O’Loughlin, K Atkinson; N Lambert, M Leacy, A O’Connor; D Codd, J Dwyer; K Kelly, U Leacy, M O’Leary; L Holohan, U Jacob (capt), K Parrock.
Subs: F Kavanagh for Codd (54), E Quigley for Holohan (56), C Storey for Atkinson (62).
GALWAY: S Earner; T Manton, S Cahalan, L Ryan; AM Hayes, T Maher, H Cooney; AM Starr, N Kilkenny; A Connolly, M Conroy, N Coen; T Ruttledge, B Hanney (capt), V Curtin.
Subs: O Kilkenny for Curtin (38).
Referee: M O’Kelly (Cork).