The42: 8 Players that defined the GAA Season – Carrie Dolan

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The42’s GAA staff have been watching game tape and crunching numbers as they profile the men and women that defined Gaelic games in 2021. This week, Sinéad Farrell takes a look back at Carrie Dolan’s sensational campaign.

Galway’s trusty free-taker: One of the deadliest forwards in the country from play and placed balls, who comes from a royal camogie bloodline.

When Galway won their second All-Ireland senior camogie title in three years last September, this publication led with Carrie Dolan’s personal tally in the headline of the match report.

Dolan’s six points — all from frees — were crucial to Galway’s narrow win over Cork as they reclaimed the title they relinquished to Kilkenny the previous December. Without her haul, Galway could have been facing back-to-back All-Ireland defeats.

For opposition sides, Dolan is a menace to deal with. She’s equally proficient from placed balls and open play, with a devastating burst of pace in her engine.

One recent example that illustrates her ferocious speed can be found in Galway’s 2020 All-Ireland final defeat to Kilkenny.

In the early stages of the second half, a Kilkenny attempt at a point drops short into the hands of Galway goalkeeper Sarah Healy. She slips the ball out to Tara Kenny who fires possession down into the forwards.

The ball bounces into Dolan’s paw who pivots away from her marker and begins charging towards the Davin End goal on the spin. After creating a small pocket of space for herself, she shortens the grip and sweeps the ball over the bar for what was her fourth point of the game.

Galway were dethroned that night, but Dolan’s quality was certainly on show in this moment.

Not that it needs to be restated every time Dolan’s ability as a player is discussed, but she does hail from strong camogie stock. Dolan is the niece of Galway great, and 2013 All-Ireland winner, Therese Maher who is part of the Galway backroom team.

History is happily repeating itself for Cathal Murray’s side.

But while Maher had to endure years of heartache before finally lifting the O’Duffy Cup, Dolan has already enjoyed All-Ireland success twice at just 22 years of age. And she’s played a vital role in both triumphs.

She was Galway’s top-scorer in last year’s final while in the 2019 decider against Kilkenny, the Clarinbridge star chalked up another six-point tally. Five of her scores came from frees on that occasion, while the other point was a ’45.

That All-Ireland victory capped a fine campaign for Dolan and Galway after they secured Division 1 league honours earlier in the season.

There are no All-Star awards yet in Dolan’s locker, but she has plenty of road left to travel to bring that number up. In fact, she would have a strong case to feel aggrieved that such an accolade hasn’t been presented to her already.

Dolan has been a prominent feature in Galway camogie throughout the underage ranks, playing in four All-Ireland finals across U16 and minor level.

She was first called into the Galway senior panel in 2016, but would have to wait until 2018 before earning a chance to make an impression. She immediately went about proving her worth as she was entrusted with the free-taking responsibilities for the Tribeswomen.

And as we already know, she still performs that job with distinction today.

“It’s good to have a year’s experience under your belt,” Dolan said ahead of the 2019 league final, remarking on her breakthrough to the senior grade with Galway.

“To have the experience to get to an All-Ireland semi-final. Playing against the Kilkennys and the Corks. Physicality-wise it’s a huge thing.

“I have come from minor and Under-16 playing girls that are the same size and stature. But when you are coming up against girls that are 10 years older it’s a big step up. But it’s something you have to get used to. The intensity, workrate, fitness levels, that all comes down to training. But it’s at a much higher standard than it was at underage.”

With the 2022 season quickly coming into view, Galway will be hoping that Dolan can continue this rich run of form and perhaps even progress to becoming the best attacking player in Ireland.

The42: 8 Players that defined the GAA Season – Niamh Kilkenny