Galway captain, Niamh Kilkenny has described All-Ireland-winning manager Tony Ward as a man who “eats, sleeps, drinks camogie”.
Ward was in charge when the Tribeswomen won their first All-Ireland senior camogie title in 1996 and at the tiller once more when the long gap was bridged in 2013.
The Sarsfields clubman remains at the helm and has brought the westerners back to the Liberty Insurance final once more.
“He has a fantastic record,” enthused Kilkenny. “He just loves camogie. He’d be on the phone to you 24 hours a day if you let him. He’s always making sure we have everything and we’re well looked after. He eats, sleeps, drinks camogie. He’s a fantastic manager.”
Ward was also in charge of the intermediate team that made it a tremendous double two years ago at Croke Park.
“To win both that day was a massive boost. That (intermediate) success has brought on the current team. There are a lot of girls on the senior team now that were successful with the intermediates that day.
“We were so long waiting for it and it definitely brought on camogie a massive amount in Galway.”
Galway have had a huge turnover since 2013 but so too have Cork, with the likes of Joanne O’Callaghan, Angela Walsh, Anna Geary, Jenny O’Leary and Sara Hayes no longer part of their squad. Kilkenny admits: “It’s hard when they’ve a lot of key players that retired. Jenny O’Leary is definitely one that stands out in my mind. She’s a fantastic player. It just shows the character of Cork. They have this never-say-die attitude.
“They work so hard on and off the ball and it just proves it again that they’re back in an All-Ireland final.
“We had them in the league final and the first round of the championship. Both games were extremely tight. We were up a good few points at half time in the league final and Cork came back again within three.
“In the first round of the championship it was just two points near the end that sealed victory for us.
“We know a lot about them and it will obviously give them great motivation going into the game that we have beaten them twice already and they’ll probably want to get one back on us.
“We’re under no illusions. It’s going to be an extremely tough game but it’s a challenge that we’re looking forward to.”
There will be no fear of any complacency in the Galway camp despite the two wins. The five-point aggregate margin from two games is good enough reason for that. Cork’s All-Ireland final record another.
“You have to take every game individually. It’s another game for us to play. It doesn’t become an All-Ireland final until the final whistle is blown. You have to keep focused on the task at hand.”
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