By Daragh Ó Conchúir
“It’s like a tap running. If it’s not running it doesn’t mean there’s no leaks, but when it’s under pressure, that’s where you see the leaks.”
The reporter is apologising to Anne Dalton for continuously opting for the shorter version of her Christian name in print.
The Kilkenny VIP is so moved by what is bordering on grovelling, that she reveals a secret. It is all a childhood fabrication that stuck. The birth cert reveals that many of us were correct all along.
“Do you remember when you were in primary school and you played a game where someone called out a letter and you had to jump if the letter was in your name?” she explains. “Because Ann was so short I gave myself an ‘e’.”
It stuck, even if nobody told the journalists that tend to cover camogie in these parts. Luckily for Kilkenny, opponents made to suffer at her hands can never expect similar charity to that exhibited in this instance. What the story does however provide perhaps is the tiniest insight into the resourcefulness of an individual that has been put to very good use in the duration of her inter-county career.
She has willingly fulfilled whatever role has been allocated to her, playing in the half-forward line and at centre-back on occasion, even though her natural habitat is around midfield. And it was when moved to her preferred role that she was able to drive Kilkenny over the line against Tipperary after extra time in the Irish Daily Star National League Division 1 semi-final, scoring three points and imposing her will generally on affairs.
The three-time All Star has been a leader for most of the nine years of her inter-county career. Taking a leaf from the book penned by one of the county’s most revered figures, hurling manager Brian Cody, she sees donning the Black and Amber as a privilege rather than a chore that demands excessive sacrifice.
She will celebrate her 28th birthday next month but the fluid and nutritional intake will be measured because the St Lachtain’s fulcrum could not forgive herself if she wasn’t able to perform at optimum level, and to do that, she will ensure that she is in the best possible condition to get the maximum return from training.
As if she hadn’t enough on her mind, the Bank of Ireland employee is studying for exams. There is no hint of stress though. Kilkenny are back in a final on Sunday and life is good. They claimed the title two years ago but three All-Ireland final losses since 2009 grate.
“Obviously it’s disappointing not winning, especially with what we’ve had underage. I suppose people on the outside see minor success and think automatically that it will lead to senior success but it’s not that easy.
“What can I say? We’re trying hard and haven’t been able to push it over the line yet but obviously we’re working hard and hoping this year, we’ll do it.”
If the defeat to Cork seven years ago was understandable, due to the youth of the panel, the failure to perform in 2013 and 2014 was a frustration. Two years ago, they were League champions and coasted through most of the season.
There was a sense that they suffered from never being tested. That certainly isn’t the case ahead of Sunday’s clash with Galway, having had to go the extra yard against Tipp.
“This year with the League was the toughest year I can remember. We had Cork, we had Waterford, who are just coming up from intermediate but are an All Ireland-winning team, we had Limerick, who are coming on in leaps and bounds and will be worth watching in summer, and we had that tough match against Tipp. That’s what you want.
“Obviously you want to be qualified but you want to be pushed and see are you able when you are. Thank God, we have been. It’s like a tap running. If it’s not running it doesn’t mean there’s no leaks, but when it’s under pressure, that’s where you see the leaks.”
The wisdom of Confucius, to go with the Rolls Royce engine and velvet skills… sometimes life isn’t fair. But then going 22 years without an All Ireland might not seem fair either. If the drought ends in the course of her career, it is almost certain that Dalton will play a central role. For now though, it is all about Galway in Semple Stadium.
“We had them in the semi-final last year and we went up about 10 points against them before losing. They have some very dangerous forwards. Ailish O’Reilly in the corner is really fast. They have serious strength there.
“They’re on a great run, having won all their games, so at the moment they’re the in-form team. All we can do is draw up a game plan and hopefully it will fall our way on the day.”