GALWAY REGAINED THE All-Ireland senior camogie championship for the first time since 1996 with a five point win over Kilkenny in a tense struggle on Sunday afternoon.
The victory completed a memorable afternoon for the Westerners who also collected the Intermediate title in the curtain-raiser.
Ailish O’Reilly’s goal just four minutes before the interval proved to be the crucial score in a stop-start contest as Galway collected just their second ever senior crown.
It took nine minutes before either side troubled the scoreboard when Niamh McGrath struck from a free for Galway but two minutes later a massive long range from Ann Dalton brought the Cats level.
Emer Haverty finished nicely to push Galway back in front but a slick Kilkenny move ended with Shelly Farrell hand passing the ball over the bar to equalise.
McGrath hit a good score under pressure to retake the lead for the Galway women but two points in a row from Farrell, a cracking run and shot from an acute angle, and Aisling Dunphy drove Kilkenny into the lead for the first time with five minutes of the half remaining.
Kilkenny appeared to be ready to take that advantage into the break but suddenly Galway sprung into life and they hit an unanswered 1-2 to take a decisive four point lead.
Ailish O’Reilly managed to hold off a couple of Galway challenges as she raced in on goal and her hand-passed finish beyond Emma Kavanagh and the momentum they garnered from that score was added to by two points from substitute Noreen Coen to give Galway a 1-5 to 0-4 lead.
Ann Dalton hit back for Kilkenny two minutes into the second half but two points in a row from McGrath and Emma Kilkelly stretched the lead to five points after 41 minutes.
Kilkenny kept knocking on the door but the resolute Galway defence denied them at every turn and the Cats went 16 second half minutes without a score until two quick-fire frees from Michelle Quilty cut the gap to just a goal.
Unfortunately for Kilkenny that was as close as they could get in a frantic final ten minutes and two frees from the outstanding Niamh McGrath brought an end to years of heartbreak for the Tribeswomen amid scenes of sheer jubilation for the Connacht side.
Scorers for Galway: Niamh McGrath 0-5 (4f), Ailish O’Reilly 1-0, Noreen Coen 0-2, Emma Kilkelly 0-1, Emer Haverty 0-1.
Scorers for Kilkenny: Shelly Farrell 0-2, Michelle Quilty 0-2 (2f), Ann Dalton 0-2 (1f), Aisling Dunphy 0-1.
Galway: Susan Earner, Therese Manton, Sarah Dervan, Heather Cooney, Sinéad Cahalan, Therese Maher, Lorraine Ryan, Niamh Kilkenny, Molly Dunne, Emer Haverty, Niamh McGrath, Emma Kilkelly, Brenda Hanney, Ann Marie Hayes, Ailish O’Reilly.
Subs: Noreen Coen for Dunne (22), Orlaith McGrath for Hanney (60), Tara Kenny for Haverty (61)
Kilkenny: Emma Kavanagh, Mairéad Power, Kate McDonald, Jacqui Frisby, Leann Fennelly, Edwina Keane, Elaine Aylward, Claire Phelan, Ann Dalton, Grace Walsh, Aisling Dunphy, Katie Power, Shelly Farrell, Denise Gaule, Aoife Neary.
Subs: Collette Dormer for Phelan (20), Kelly Hamilton for Walsh (40), Michelle Quilty for Neary (46), Miriam Walsh for Gaule (55).
Referee: Ger O’Dowd (Limerick)