Kilkenny dethroned champions Galway to end a run of All-Ireland finals heartbreak, claiming victory on a scoreline of 1-14 to 1-11 at Croke Park.
In his maiden year as manager Brian Dowling led a team that had lost five of the previous six finals to ultimate glory after a superb second half performance.
Having trailed by two points at the break, Kilkenny outscored their opponents 1-08 to 0-06 in the second half for a fully deserved victory.
A Denise Gaule penalty with three minutes remaining when the sides were level proved to be the crucial score, but in truth, the black and amber has wasted other goal opportunities against a Galway generous that was more generous than we have previously seen.
The game began with a late change on either side, and it was one of the new faces that showed her worth in the opening minute.
Siobhan McGrath, a late change on the Galway side for Rebecca Hennelly, wasted little time in making her mark with a lovely strike off her right. The strike was quickly cancelled out at the other end by Aoife Doyle, the first of four points she would plunder in her first All-Ireland apperance.
If both managers, Brian Dowling and his Galway counterpart Cathal Murray, felt those scores would settle the nerves, what followed tense and at times scrappy exchanges and it would be 18 minutes before we witnessed the next score from play when Orlaith McGrath split the posts to edge the Tribes ahead 0-04 to 0-03.
In the meantime, Denise Gaule and Carrie Dolan kept the scoreboard ticking over from frees with the majority of the game taking place between both 65s.
Part of Kilkenny's problem was their failure to secure their own puckout – winning just one in the opening quarter.
Galway dropped Niamh Hanniffy deep to operate a two-player full-forward line, and the space inside was soon exploited.
Th first sniff of a goal came in the 25th minute when Niamh Kilkenny surged through the middle but the final ball from Ailish O’Reilly was deemed by referee Owen Elliott to be a throw ball. It was the correct call from the official, who was busy throughout.
It was warning sign for the Cats, and while Ann Dalton got her name on the scoresheet after a quiet opening as her movements were closely tracked by Catriona Cormican, two minutes later Galway didn’t need a second invitation to raise a green flag.
It was a goal made and finished in Sarsfields with Siobhan McGrath sending sister Orlaith through. The side-step sold Aoife Norris and it put daylight between the sides.
In such a tight contest, it felt a pivotal moment, but Kilkenny themselves had a brilliant opportunity to immediately respond.
Grace Walsh took off on a powerful run as the Galway defence opened up. Katie Nolan slipped the ball to Aoife Doyle, but the wing-forward couldn’t prevent the close-range shot from rising over Shauna Healy’s crossbar, the final score of the half.
The second-half began at a frantic space and soon pockets of space began to open up.
A Denise Gaule brace of frees was sandwiched by Orlaith McGrath’s effort from play.
Nolan was roving everywhere and helped herself to another point while Galway midfielder Aoife Donohue rode a heavy challenge to point for the westerners, but Kilkenny were finding their scores easier to come by.
Doyle had a second goal chance after Nolan slipped inside the challenge of Emma Helebert, but again the trajectory was too high, though it was enough to draw the sides level, 1-07 to 0-10.
Free-takers Gaule and Dolan then both got off the mark from play, the Kilkenny forward landing her score from 60 metres out, while the Clarinbridge flyer’s solo run levelled matters for the seventh occasion.
Doyle nudged the Cats ahead, but it could have been a more substantial lead moments before as Miriam Walsh took her eye off the ball at the last second as she was about to turn on her heels.
The momentum was very much with Kilkenny and Grace Walsh, playing in a more advanced role than the number 7 on her jersey would suggest, was in quickly to dispossess Heather Cooney to split the posts.
The critical score? Denise Gaule buries a penalty as Kilkenny take a big step towards winning the 2020 All-Ireland camogie title - watch the finale live on @rte2 and @rteplayer #rtegaa pic.twitter.com/KFr7qGAacv— The Sunday Game (@TheSundayGame) December 12, 2020
At the other end, it was a bad time for Dolan’s accuracy from frees to fail her and all of a sudden the champions couldn’t buy a score.
2019 Player of the Year Niamh Kilkenny wasn’t enjoying the same tour de force around the middle as last year, but ended Galway’s15th minute scoring drought after picking Anna Farrell’s pocket. A minute later and Dolan tied matters up from a free.
The crucial score then came in the 56th minute. Denise Gaule was upended by a combination of all three Galway full-back line.
Having gone three successive All-Ireland finals without scoring a goal, Gaule stepped up and drilled her to Sarah Healy’s right and with two minutes to play Kilkenny now had their largest lead of the game.
In the second of three minutes of additional time, Dolan resisted the temptation to drill her free low, settling for a point, but that was the end of the scoring on a memorable day for the Cats.
Kilkenny: A Norris, M Teehan, C Phelan, D Tobin, C Dormer, M Farrell, G Walsh (0-01), A Farrell, K Doyle, M Walsh, A Dalton (0-01), A Doyle (0-04), M O’Connell (0-1), D Gaule (1-06 5 frees, 0-1 45, 1 pen), K Nolan (0-01)
Subs: L Murphy for O’Connell (54), N Deely for Teehan (60)
Galway: S Healy, S Healy, S Dervan, H Cooney, E Helebert, S Gardiner, T Kenny, A Donohue (0-01), N Kilkenny (0-01), C Dolan (0-06 5fs), C Cormican, S McGrath (0-02), A O’Reilly (0-01), N Hanniffy, O McGrath (1-00).
Subs: S Spellman for Helebert (51), R Hennelly for O’Donohue (62)
Referee: Owen Elliott (Antrim)