Kilkenny captain Michelle Quilty believes their semi-final extra-time victory over Galway proves they have learned lessons from their last All-Ireland final defeat to Cork.
Kilkenny clash with Cork in a senior decider for the third time in eight years on Sunday, with the Cats contesting their fourth final overall since 2009.
They came out the wrong side of each of those deciders, most recently suffering a six-point loss to the Rebelettes two years ago after leading by five at half-time of that 2014 final.
“You’re never complacent but you’re thinking this could actually be our day,” said Quilty, reflecting on that loss.”
But then I suppose when we came out in the second half, Cork got a run on us.
“They are a super team. Once they get a run on you, it’s very hard to claw them back. They’ve shown that, going for three in a row,” added the Kilkenny captain, who believes their recent hard-fought win over Galway proves they can bounce back from the brink.
A 73rd-minute goal from Galway’s Ailish O’Reilly sent that last-four clash to extra-time, but Kilkenny responded on the resumption as Anne Dalton raised a green flag to take control.
“You have to keep going to the final whistle,” said Quilty. “I think we proved that in the semi-final against Galway. We could have dropped our heads when the goal went in but we didn’t, we regrouped and it shows great character to carry on and go through with it.”
Kilkenny last won an All-Ireland title in 1994 under the captaincy of Ann Downey, who is now manager. And Quilty hopes Downey can again lead the county to the O’Duffy Cup.
“Herself and Angela were formidable twins there, they were kind of the face for Kilkenny camogie for a number of years,” said the captain.
“It’s great to have that experience and the knowledge they bring to the game in with us. Obviously it’s driving us forward and hopefully we can put it all in place on Sunday.
“We’re kind of just focusing on ourselves now. Putting in the hard work in training and hopefully it’ll all go right. You have to look at the experience and hope we’ll take it on board.
“We’re not putting any pressure on ourselves, Cork are going for three-in-a-row, they’re a formidable team, and we’re just looking at ourselves on the day.”
While Cork are aiming for that three in a row and an eighth title in 15 years, Quilty has been present for all four of Kilkenny’s final losses during that time having suffered defeat in 2009, 2013 and 2014.
But she believes a reinvigorated panel are primed to put it up to their decorated opponents, who were also pushed to extra-time in their semi-final win over Wexford.
“We’ve a good few new girls after coming into it and I think they’ve brought a sense of freshness,” said Quilty. “But even the experience of having most of the girls having played in Croke Park before will be a massive bonus to us.
“We’re not going in on the day nearly blindsided, you know what you’re expecting with the crowd and the numbers. I think even with the semi-final against Galway, the fact that both games went to extra-time, there was that extra crowd that came in for our game, which would have helped the girls to play in front of big numbers.
“I’ve been there now since 2007, nine years, so it’s a long time. We’ve seen the defeat side of it, which isn’t always pretty. Hopefully this year we’ll be looking to rectify that.”
Kilkenny and Cork will contest both the senior and intermediate finals on Sunday, but the Cats also have the chance to salvage some senior pride for the county after their hurlers’ final defeat to Tipperary last weekend.
“I suppose we’re probably fortunate enough in the sense that the hurlers were there before us so that kind of takes a lot of the pressure off of us - the limelight kind of sticks with them for the majority of the time,” said Quilty. “[This week] leading up to ours then, you get the supporters asking you the questions and wishing you luck and stuff.
“You kind of just have to — without being ignorant —block it out and nearly go past it. Just focus on your own game to do what you need to do.”
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