BY NIALL SHERRY – SPORTS EDITOR
Croker Final awaits against old foes Galway
Kilkenny Camogs displayed tremendous spirt and resilience in defeating Tipperary, to set up a tantalizing league final clash with Galway next Sunday at headquarters.
This was a clash of epic proportions, with no quarter given by either side as the game ebbed and flowed.
Denise Gaule opened the scoring after just 41 seconds from a free, and further scores followed from Katie Nolan and a wonderful point on the run from Piltown’s Aoife Doyle.
All seemed to be flowing nicely for Brian Dowling’s team, but Tipperary star Cáit Devane had other ideas, recording a personal tally of 0-8 in the first half, with four of these scores coming from play. Given that Devane was being marshalled by one of the game’s best markers in Davina Tobin, made her performance even greater.
Tipperary reached the first water break 0-4 to 0-3 ahead, and when play resumed, they took total control of the semi-final. Everything was going right for Bill Mullaney’s charges, with Devane at the centre of all that was good.
Then against the run of play, the cats hit back. Tipperary defender Aoife McGrath fouled Gaule who had managed to find rare open space. From the resulting penalty, deadly Denise struck to the net to give her team hope. Further scores from Devane and Emer McGrath left the Premier County ahead on a score line of 0-11 to 1-3.
The cats needed to regroup, and following a much-needed half-time team talk, Kilkenny emerged re-energized and began to move through the gears, hitting the first three scores of the second period. The best of these was a wonderful score from Clara’s Mary O’Connell – tight to the right sideline.
The Cats were purring. You could sense that the reigning All-Ireland Champions hadn’t somehow just taken that title. They Stood tall, dug deep and kept to their playing principles.
Tipp’s main threat, Cáit Devane was roaming in a much deeper role as they attempted to weather the Kilkenny storm. Despite a couple of further scores from Gaule, a brace from Devane ensured the away side held a five-point lead by the 54th minute.
When Dowling needing someone to deliver – they did. Gaule struck a powerful shot from around the 20 metre line, which All-Star keeper Áine Slattery saw cannon off her fingers into the net. The gap was now just two points, but the impressive Devane’s fifth point from play edged Tipp three ahead.
From the resulting puck-out St Martin’s Katie Nolan raised the green flag with a well struck low shot to bring the team’s level.
Tipp would not lie down – they edged ahead twice more, only to see the magnificent Gaule peg them back on both occasions.
Champions don’t shy away from battle, and it was the ‘wonder of Windgap’ that expertly converted two more frees to see Kilkenny over the line. Croker awaits.
Kilkenny: E Kavanagh, M Teehan, D Tobin, M Bambrick, K Doyle, M Farrell, G Walsh, N Deely, L Fitzpatrick, K Nolan (1-02), M O’Connell (0-01), M Kenneally, A Doyle (0-01), M Walsh, D Gaule (2-08, 8f, 1pen).
Subs: L Murphy for Fitzpatrick (ht), S Fitzgerald for Kenneally (43), S Crowley for A Doyle (51), A Prendergast for G Walsh (52)
>> SHERRY SAYS…
Following the Hurler’s defeat on Saturday, the Kilkenny faithful needed some Sunday cheer. And boy did Brian Dowling’s champions deliver at Nowlan Park. Following their victory over Limerick, the cat’s supremo said “We were lucky – but we’ll take it” He may echo those sentiments again following this pulsating encounter with Tipp.
Tipperary brought championship intensity to town. They were dominating physically across all areas of the pitch. Cáit Devane is an outstanding camog, but guess what – we have the ‘Wonder of Windgap’.
Denise Gaule is unnervingly immense. Finishing her day’s work with 2-8 was undoubtably the basis of this semi-final win. But this whole panel stand shoulder to shoulder with her. Don’t forget Katie Power has still to return.
Following this epic battle, the manager will want his troops to recover & take stock of the problems posed by Tipp, ahead of the league final against last year’s beaten All-Ireland finalists, Galway.
This league final will serve as a warm-up to a championship meeting between the same sides and both camps may look to put down a marker in this fixture.
Under the lights at Croker, possibly five thousand lucky fans. Camogie is back.
The west’s awake, hopefully it will be to the sound of Kilkenny celebrations on Sunday night.
Championship Draw Made for Camogs
The draws for the business end of the year were made last Sunday evening – no doubting the standout tie at Senior level – a repeat of the last 2 All-Ireland Finals with the Cats set to face-off against fellow league finalists Galway.
Our Intermediate ladies will face ties against the Saffrons, Kildare & the rebel county.
All-Ireland Senior Championship Draw: Group 1: Tipperary, Wexford, Limerick, Offaly; Group 2: Cork, Waterford, Dublin, Down; Group 3: Galway, Kilkenny, Westmeath, Clare.
All-Ireland Intermediate Championship: Group 1: Meath, Dublin, Galway, Carlow; Group 2: Antrim, Kildare, Kilkenny, Cork; Group 3: Laois, Kerry, Derry, Tipperary.