Galway manager Cathal Murray hailed a 'very, very special' success for his team as the westerners lifted the O'Duffy Cup for the third time with victory over Kilkenny in Croke Park. 

The Tribe plundered three first-half goals as they opened up a six-point gap at the break and, while they had to weather a Kilkenny storm in the third quarter, they re-asserted themselves in the driving finish to ensure that six-point advantage remained intact by the final whistle. 

"It's an unbelievable feeling," Murray told RTÉ Sport afterwards. 

"It's only our third All-Ireland. We don't win too many of them. So, it's very, very special to win it. 

"The girls have had a long road. I'm just thrilled for them. 

"We knew we'd have to weather a storm. Kilkenny are a super team. They've beaten us the last five occasions they've met us. We knew we'd have a huge challenge. I think we got a good start and just kept building from there."

Central to the success was Galway's totem in midfield, Niamh Kilkenny, who delivered a powerhouse display, lobbing over four points from play. 

Also vital to the success was goalscorers Ailish O'Reilly, grabbing a brace, and Niamh Haniffy, while free-taker Carrie Dolan held her nerve in an occasionally anxious endgame. 

"It was probably a battle of the free-takers for a while. Denise Gaule hit three unbelievable frees. And then Carrie missed a '45 and then she had a free over the other side of the field, which wouldn't be her favourite side, and when she nailed that I felt we had it.

"Every time Niamh (Kilkenny) gets the ball, she's dangerous. She got some unbelievable points out there. The workrate for the last ten minutes was unbelievable. The backs weathered a storm.

"Goals are crucial. Ailish's goals were a real tonic at the start. It was the first time this year we got a good start."

Murray narrowly missed out a double success, with the Galway intermediate side surrendering a seven-point half-time lead against Westmeath beforehand. 

The Sarsfields man gave a shout-out to the beaten intermediates in his post-match victory interview.  

"We're delighted with the year. I have to mention the intermediates. My heart goes out to them. I know there's 14 of them that won All-Ireland medals with the seniors and that's some solace for them.

"But it was a tough defeat and my heart goes out to the 16 that didn't pick up All-Ireland medals today. They're a super team and they'll be back. 

"For us a senior team, we're delighted to be on top."