GALWAY MANAGER TONY Ward enjoyed one of those days, yesterday, that come around once in a lifetime — if you’re lucky. Speaking after he watched both his Galway teams take home the ultimate honours in the intermediate and senior finals, he could not hide his happiness.
“One of my great sporting days,” he declared. “It’s great for any manager to bring two adult teams to Croke Park and come away with a win. It’s a brilliant feeling and I don’t know when it’s going to sink in. Some people say it’s unbelievable, but it is believable for these girls because they have suffered the heartache over the last few [years] and today finally is their day.”
He was especially overjoyed for Therese Maher, who had fought for the Galway cause for well over a decade but had experienced plenty of heartache along the way.
Ward commented, “Therese is a bit special; she’s a special player. She came in with me in 1997 and just missed out on the All-Ireland in ’96. She just kept on coming back and coming back and if anyone deserved an All-Ireland medal, she deserved it.”
The Athenry stalwart had suffered five defeats in senior finals since her debut in 1997 but her faith never wavered according to a delighted Ward. He told TheScore.ie:
It takes a lot to keep coming back like that and it was the big lift we needed after the League when she said she’d give it one more go. It was a big lift for the rest of the girls and that’s the type of respect she has. If Therese hadn’t trained up until today they [the girls] would still have loved to have see her there because that’s the kind of respect they have for her. I would say she thought long and hard about it [playing this year], but thank God she made the decision.”
Asked whether Maher would extend her career or will she sign out at the top, Ward laughed. “You’d never know. Once she has the taste of winning she might come back for a few more.”
Therese Maher is mobbed by teammates at the final whistle. INPHO/Dan Sheridan
The two victories are a major boost for camogie in the county Ward pointed out. “It’s great because we have been the bridesmaids so often,” he said. “It probably wasn’t a great game to watch with defences on top, but we have come here in brilliant games and lost them. We said on Tuesday night that we didn’t care if it was three points to two as long as we had the three points.”
Having managed the intermediates to victory just minutes before the senior throw-in, Ward, who managed Galway to their only other previous O’Duffy Cup success back in ’96, said that although it wasn’t talked about, the result gave their senior counterparts a boost.
“It definitely gave them a lift. All they needed was the wink in the dressing-room, that’s all it was. There was no jumping up and down – we tore around the corner, composed ourselves, went into the dressing-room and took it as another game as if nothing was happening.
“I had my mind made up that I wasn’t going to get caught up because if you get caught up you’re going to be held out there. The senior game was the one we really wanted to win and we had to get the girls ready. It worked out for us. Today had the potential to be brilliant, which it was, but it also had the potential to be a disaster. To lose two would have been a disaster.”