WITH TWO GALWAY teams in Croke Park on All-Ireland camogie finals day on Sunday, one immediately thinks of their 2013 heroics.
Galway intermediate captain Laura Ward.
Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO
That day the intermediate and senior sides left HQ with the Jack McGrath and O’Duffy Cups, the buses pointed towards the west as double-winning manager Tony Ward left the capital a very happy man, bringing an end to the All-Ireland camogie title drought in the county.
The Sarsfields man was a direct link to their one other past crowning moment; in 1996, he was also at the helm.
On Sunday, Ward’s daughter, Laura, will captain the intermediate side into battle as they face Westmeath [throw-in 2pm, live on RTÉ]. Looking back to 2013, a 16-year-old Ward was a water girl that day.
22 now, the memories come flooding back.
“Just the whole thing,” she smiles, when she’s asked for the most prominent ones. “It was just unbelievable and all so new to us.
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“The intermediates got bet in 2012 so it was nice to see the difference and compare. I remember going home with them on the bus and getting off in Ballinasloe, it was just unbelievable. The whole place was packed, you wouldn’t be able to describe it. Just class.”
As those involved in the game know, Tony eats, sleeps, drinks and breathes camogie and hurling.
“Mam does stop him sometimes, ‘Give her a break!’” Laura, the youngest of six — four boys and two girls — laughs immediately when that’s put to her.
Tony (centre) bringing the double home in 2013.
Source: James Crombie/INPHO
It’s even worse now considering the fact that he isn’t involved with any team at any level at the minute. Most recently he was over the Galway U20s but he stepped away when shoulder damage saw him go under the knife.
“He’s at home all the time now. After every training session, it’s, ‘How was that?’ Ah, he’s actually fine. I’d be very calm anyway and he knows I listen to him so he does talk to me.
“My brothers are like ‘Go away’, they’re very jumpy before matches and don’t want to hear anything, but I’m pretty calm.”
What about the best advice he’s given her? She doesn’t have to think twice about that.
“He’s constantly nagging me about holding my square when I’m full-back,” Ward, who’s starting her final year of Children’s Studies in NUIG, grins. “Constantly. Every day I go out he says, ‘Don’t forget now you’re full-back and you have to hold your square!’”
With many of the victorious intermediate team of 2013 now lining out in the senior final on Sunday, Ward is one of 11 who crosses over.
She’s on both panels so that means she’ll play in the intermediate final and then take her place on the senior bench. A weird one considering the potential emotions she’ll be dealing with at the time.
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Win, and she’s on top of the world and will obviously want to stay and celebrate with the team she captains. Lose, and it’s a case of picking herself up and switching the focus to the next job at hand.
Tackling Tipperar’s Joanne Ryan.
Source: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO
It will be the same, of course, for the mastermind behind Galway camogie at the minute, Cathal Murray, who manages both teams. It was a dream day for Cork’s Paudie Murray in the same situation last year, with Wexford’s JJ Doyle also in that rare group, and Murray will definitely be hoping to follow in their footsteps.
“Cathal’s brilliant,” Ward says. “He’s so professional.
“He’s been torn between the two squads. It’s crazy. In one of our championship games, he left the minute the referee blew the whistle and he was gone to Wexford for the seniors.
“We’re always abusing him, telling him, ‘You can’t handle the pressure,’” she jokes. “He’s handled it very well, he’s well able for it.”
Back in the gym since last November, the Tribeswomen’s physicality is on another level this year and she credits strength and conditioning coach Robbie Lane for his monstrous work there.
“The whole backroom team are excellent this year,” she adds.
With Westmeath the opposition on Sunday, Sarsfield defender Ward knows just as well as anyone how remarkable their rise has been. From Premier Junior champions in 2017 to an intermediate final two years later, they’re now one step away from senior status.
“Yeah, we played Westmeath in the league, drew with them and then beat them by a point in championship. It was the same last year. They have been very consistent over the last few years.”
With senior captain Sarah Dervan.
Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO
But Galway have also been pretty consistent themselves, and with two teams ready to run out on Croke Park on Sunday, the excitement is well and truly building around the county.
“There’s such a good buzz around the place. Everyone at home seems to be talking about it so it really gets you hyped up for it. We seen it in 2013 obviously and that was brilliant so it makes you want to go for it even more when you’ve experienced it.”
The ladies footballers are preparing for their own All-Ireland senior final on Sunday week to add to it all too, so the hopes of a treble are most definitely alive.
“It’s unreal,” Ward concludes. “You can feel it in the county, everyone’s talking about it. It’s lovely. It’s great to have the girls getting all the talk and the support.”
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