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Wednesday 20 November 2019

Playmaker Dalton to lead Cats to glory

Sarah Dervan of Galway. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Sarah Dervan of Galway. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

After agonisingly going down by a point to Cork in the last two All-Ireland senior finals, Ann Downey knew changes were needed for the Cats to get over the line and the Kilkenny camogie legend has certainly shaken things up.

Renowned for being a side that were rock-solid at the back and gave little away, with low tallies conceded as they regularly utilised a sweeper,the emphasis has shifted this season with Downey keen to maximise the plethora of talent available to her up front, none more so than Anne Dalton.

Last year's Player of the Year will go down as one of the all-time greats but her positioning in defence may have been taking away from attacking prowess and her relocation to centre-forward was a statement of intent that things would be different this year, and it has worked a treat.

Surrounded by the likes of Katie Power, Michelle Quilty and Denise Gaule, Dalton's role as a playmaker has helped Kilkenny clock up some impressive tallies this summer and if allowed to get into full flow and impose their slick movement in attack, they will be difficult to stop.

However, they are coming up against one of the meanest defences in the game with no quarter asked or given by a Galway back six led by Sarah Dervan and Heather Cooney, but this will be their biggest test to date.

The Tribeswomen upset three-in-a-row-seeking Cork in a titanic last-four clash, having earlier taken down Kilkenny in the league final. They look a completely different side this season under Cathal Murray, who has brought stability after a few years of turmoil.

With the likes of Aoife Donohue, Niamh Kilkenny, Ailish O'Reilly and Carrie Dolan in their ranks, they are a match for anyone and they will be doing everything possible to get their hands on the O'Duffy Cup for the first time since 2012.

The last few finals have not been the engrossing spectacles which camogie enthusiasts would have liked given the stature of the game's showpiece event but this should be an intense, physical battle where the scores are relatively free-flowing and that will favour the Cats.

The pain of defeat and the prospect of leaving Croke Park without the spoils for a third successive year should drive them home in the last quarter, although they will be pushed every inch of the way by a defiant Galway side.

VERDICT: Kilkenny

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