All-Ireland winner Claire Phelan, a likely candidate for the Camogie All-Stars this year joined The Clash Act for the last episode of 2020 to reflect on Kilkenny’s emphatic All-Ireland final victory over Cork earlier in December.
Chatting with Eddie Scally and Taggy Fogarty on the podcast, the Lisdowney clubwoman said it was great to get the monkey of the last few years off their back.
“It was a long few years there where we’ve been knocking at the door for a while”, says Phelan.
“With everything going on at the moment it was special, but for us it was extra special, just being so close for the last few years and to finally make that breakthrough was a big thing, but it’s one we’ll definitely remember for a long, long time to come.”
When questioned about motivating factors for this year’s All-Ireland win, the fresh additions to the squad plus the desire to shake the monkey of the last three years off their backs, may have spurred things along.
“In fairness to Brian (Dowling), he left it open to ourselves. It was discussed at the start of the year; we had a meeting and there was a lot thrashed about at that. For some of us it might have been a motivating factor (having lost the last three finals), for some of us it’s been there a long time.”
“Definitely, the freshness of the younger girls coming in who hadn’t been through it all and had one thing on there mind, that was to get to Croke Park and win themselves an All-Ireland medal. That probably made it that bit easier for us.”
“For some, I suppose, it was a motivating factor. I don’t think you can really just ignore it no matter what you do, you need to speak about it at some point. It was a bit of both but the younger girls definitely brought that freshness as well.”
With Brian Dowling in his first year as manager, was there anything that changed?
“Not hugely”, says Claire.
“In fairness, Brian and Ann (Downey) worked great together last year when they were there. Brian did bring in a few new faces in Pat O’Neill and Philly Larkin. As a back, I thought that was brilliant. Sometimes we might find the focus more on the forwards so it was brilliant to have a voice there to drive us on a bit more and give us that bit of bite.”
“Anything we asked for was given to us, he did absolutely everything he possibly could to get us over the line.”
“But those few new voices and faces maybe brought a little something as well.”
Kate Kelly of Wexford, a multiple-time All-Ireland winner herself was full of praise on a previous edition of The Clash Act for Claire Phelan, citing her as potentially the most underrated player of recent years and one that’s been having the year of her life. So what changed for Phelan to make this year such a standout?
“For myself, the actual break did me a huge amount of good over the lockdown and that, just getting back to the club for a while. We were playing League the week before things totally shut down in March. We played a league match against Cork and I didn’t have a good day at all myself.”
“I think the break did a lot, a huge amount of good because we’d been on the road for a while. You know sometimes, for myself anyway, just to step away and get to club for a while and relax a bit, did me a bit of good personally.”
“The likes of Philly and Pat, definitely, I really bought into what they were bringing to training. Pat O’Neill definitely put a bit of bite into us, made sure none of us were giving an inch to the forwards. That benefited both – the backs and the forwards, they were getting as tough as they would in any matches.”
“It was the whole collective thing this year, everyone bought into what Brian was saying and what the lads were saying.”
Listen to interview
Listen to Claire speak in full on The Clash Act from the 38 minute mark below or search for The Clash Act on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and all good podcast platforms.