ORDINARILY, THIS IS Katie Power’s favourite time of the year. An All-Ireland final.
Katie Power looking on at Kilkenny’s semi-final win over Cork.
Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO
It’s sharing the stage with Christmas in 2020, but a change in scheduling aside, it’s still an All-Ireland final. The O’Duffy Cup will still be waiting in the Hogan Stand for the victors.
For most finals, it’s typically a three-week build-up before the curtain is raised and the ball is thrown in. And throughout that time, “it’s good vibes all around,” according to the Piltown forward.
This is always assuming Kilkenny reach that stage of the season, and for the past five years, that has been the case.
Power started at full-forward when they last lifted the O’Duffy Cup in 2016, their first senior camogie crown since 1994.
But this time around, she will be wearing crutches rather than hurling boots when the Cats roll onto the pitch in Croke Park. She was in the stand when Kilkenny rallied to overcome Cork in the semi-final, and she’ll be taking a seat again for the final showdown with Galway.
“You’d be just missing that feeling and it just feels so strange and so different that you’re not physically preparing for a big game. I’m obviously so happy for the girls, and after the game against Cork, I was buzzing and couldn’t have been more delighted for the group.
But then the hours and the days going by, there was a lot of mixed emotions as well. It is natural to have those mixed emotions but I’m just finding it very strange I suppose.”
Work would be a welcome distraction for any player in Power’s position. But she doesn’t even have that outlet at the moment. She suffered a horrific knee injury the week before Kilkenny’s championship campaign got underway.
On the day we speak, she’s five weeks post-surgery with a long road still ahead of her. Her day job is a personal trainer and fitness instructor at TJ Reid’s gym which is half an hour away from her in Kilkenny city.
She can’t drive to work at the moment either, while her foot is still in a brace and the crutches are nearby.
“I have a bit of weight gear at home,” Power explains, “and I do 30 minutes upper body [training] every day just to tick over. It probably doesn’t achieve a huge amount but mentally, it keeps you occupied for that 30 or 40 minutes.
Just trying to do a bit of reading, trying to keep myself occupied because I know myself when I’m not doing anything, that’s when your head starts going around thinking the worst of everything, and overthinking as well.
“So just trying to keep myself busy as much as I can.”
Power’s recent history with injuries makes for grim reading. At the start of this year, she spoke to the media about an ongoing finger problem.
It started with a broken bone in her hand after receiving a bang from a hurl. She also had issues with repeatedly dislocating her finger, and needed injections just to be able to play in last year’s All-Ireland final.
Power celebrates winning the 2016 All-Ireland final with Kilkenny.
Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO
Just as she was moving on from that, Power was struck down by injury again earlier this year. She was chasing down an opponent during a training match when she heard something and a surge of pain followed.
‘I have nothing to say to anyone, I’m just gutted… I’ll never forget the pain’
It turned out to be a broken kneecap, her second time to suffer the injury after breaking the other kneecap six or seven years previously.
“With the type of break that it was, the first three months are going to be incredibly slow unfortunately,” says Power.
“So, after Christmas, I’ll have a good two months down.
“Just the last week or so, [I’m] back in the pool doing a bit of aqua walking at the moment. It’s going to take eight to 12 weeks before it heals. And after it’s healed, you’re going to be working the muscles around the knee.
So, just have to leave the fracture to heal. I’ve two screws in the knee just to try to push the fracture together. Obviously they need to be left alone for the first two or three months.
“There were so many good stories to come out of Covid. One of my own team-mates from Piltown is on the Kilkenny panel, she did her cruciate the week before the first lockdown. She had the whole lockdown to train every day and she came on against Cork in the semi-final. It’s a bit of light for myself at the end of the tunnel.”
of the team
Access exclusive podcasts, interviews and analysis with a monthly or annual membership.
Become a Member
Power remains an integral part of the Kilkenny camp. She still goes to the training sessions and has attended all of their matches in their run-up to getting back to the All-Ireland final.
Anything she notices in games that’s worth taking note of, she passes it onto management for them to make a call.
Compelling images of her were captured in Páirc Uí Chaoimh as she looked on at her team-mates rally from a six-point deficit in the early stages against Cork to squeeze through to another decider.
Understandably, there was a mix of emotions swirling around her head.
“It was very emotional.
“I think Brian [Dowling], Tommy [Shefflin], Ray [Challoner] and Philly [Larkin] have brought in a huge sense of belief within the panel. And obviously we would have had that in previous years, but we have obviously suffered a good few knocks.
Click Here: France soccer tracksuit
There’s just something this year. We’re stronger personally and as a unit. And I think that showed against Cork. Other years, we went six points down after five minutes and our heads would be gone. Whereas [against Cork] the girls only started hurling after that. After the game, I was so proud, so happy.
“But then it was emotional to see the girls out there playing without you. They came straight over after the match and it was emotional but it was a great day for the panel because we weren’t expected to win the game, and the way the girls won it.”
Power was always confident that they would win that game. Even their wobbles in the opening 10 minutes couldn’t send her leaning towards any doubts about her team-mates.
View this post on Instagram
A post shared by Katie Power (@powerkatie1)
She said as much to a member of the management team was starting to worry.
“I was like, ‘Do you know what? We’ll be grand.’
Maybe if I was out there, I would have been panicking, but I always actually still thought we were going to win. Maybe the frustration of the first few minutes, because I knew how well we’d been going at training.
“The minute they got their groove, I was like, ‘Nah, they won’t be stopped today.’
This is an unusual week for Power. A time that is normally spent immersing herself in All-Ireland final build-up will be replaced with taking on the role of supporter.
Much has been said about Kilkenny’s losing record in finals, something which Power says is “a bigger thing in the media.” At the same time, she notes that that hurt is worth harnessing when they step out on the pitch on Satruday night to try and wrangle the O’Duffy Cup from the holders Galway.
Galway are a team with “hardly any weaknesses” she notes. Dethroning them will be a colossal challenge. It’s not a role that’s she used to, but Power can only wish her team-mates well in that task.
“It’s tough, very tough at times to see the girls playing as well but it’s nice to be part of it. I want to be as positive as I can around them. I told myself going up that I’m not being negative. I want to give positive vibes around the camp. I don’t want anyone feeling sorry for me or anything like that.
It’s about them, it’s not about me. I have 22 hours every other day to make it about me but the two hours I’m above with them, it’s about them. If anyone needs anything, I’m there to help.”
“It’s tough, very tough at times to see the girls playing as well but it’s nice to be part of it. I want to be as positive as I can around them. I told myself going up [to training] that I’m not being negative. I want to give positive vibes around the camp. I don’t want anyone feeling sorry for me or anything like that.
“It’s about them, it’s not about me. I have 22 hours every other day to make it about me but the two hours I’m above with them, it’s about them. If anyone needs anything, I’m there to help.”