BY NIALL SHERRY
Rebel battle stands between Cats and final berth
When Kilkenny and Cork take to the hallowed turf of Croke Park on Sunday afternoon, they will most likely know who awaits in the battle for the O’Duffy Cup on September 12th.
This is the fourth year running that Kilkenny, Cork, Galway and Tipperary have contested the semi-finals, Tipperary the only side not to advance in that time to the final.
It’s a case of déjà vu for the semi-finalists. Last season Kilkenny emerged victorious, on a score line of 2-10 to 1-11. The goals were scored by Miriam Walsh and a certain Anne Dalton. The latter would retire from inter-county camogie at the end of that season. Little did we know that last Saturday’s team sheet would feature the same legend in the position of substitute goalkeeper. It’s a situation that’s likely to be repeated on Sunday, as Emma Kavanagh picked up a serious knee injury in training recently.
For the first time in championship camogie history, the semi-finals are being staged at headquarters. Galway will get proceedings under way at 2pm, against Tipperary. Our ladies our due to commence battle at 4pm against the Lee-siders.
Following last weekend’s expected victory over Wexford in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, manager Brian Dowling was reasonably satisfied with his side’s win. “We were very happy with the first half, especially the first 20 minutes and they were probably the best 20 minutes we played all year but we dropped off a bit in the second half,” he said post-match.
“That happens when you’re far ahead but it’s something we have to work on because if that happens in an All-Ireland semi-final, we’ll be out of the championship fairly quick.”
The manager may be forced to make at least one change to his starting line-up for the semi-final clash, following the shoulder injury sustained by influential wing-back Kellyann Doyle. At the time of writing, it’s appears highly unlikely that the Piltown defender will have recovered in time to take her place. It was Niamh Deely that replaced the stricken Doyle against Wexford, and she will be pushing hard to get the call for Sunday’s clash.
It was good to see Katie Power getting much needed championship minutes, and the nippy forward still possesses the quality to operate at the top table. The Piltown forward hit two lovely points against Wexford, but it was her inter play and link up with teammates that caught the eye.
Kilkenny will hope that their defence is on point again, they will certainly need Tobin, Phelan and Teehan to be on top form to snuff out the Cork attacking threat, led by the super-talented Amy O’Connor. Along with O’Connor, the cats will need to keep close tabs on Katrina Mackey, Orla Cronin. The Courcey Rovers duo of Captain Linda Collins and Fiona Keating are central to the rebels forward play.
Killeagh’s Chloe Sigerson is a dynamic runner, and could possibly start in the midfield engine room, should Ashling Thompson fail to recover from a recurring hamstring injury.
In defence, Cork have been boosted by the return to the panel of versatile former All-Ireland winner Pamela Mackey. It is possible that Cork boss Paudie Murray could well have a marking job in mind for the returning Mackey.
Rebel’s boss Murray will have been alarmed at the ease with which Waterford cut through his defence in their final group game last time out and raised the green flag on three occasions. He will know that the likes of Aoife Doyle, Miriam Walsh and the two Katie’s will punish any such generosity on Sunday.
Converting frees could prove crucial in this clash, and Windgap’s Denise Gaule will look to take her ‘player of the match’ form from the Wexford win into this weekend’s semi-final. The rebels may look to share the placed balls between Katrina Mackey and Orla Cronin.
Ultimately, this game could come down to a pure shoot-out between the teams. Brian Dowling will be hoping his side deploy the necessary firepower to outgun their opponents for the entire 60 plus minutes. He knows that they can’t afford any down-time in the semi-final.
Neither side will want a replay. Let’s hope our stripey-women leave it all on the green, green grass of Croke Park this Sunday.
• Also in action this weekend are our Intermediate & minor camogs. The intermediate side take on the Royal County of Meath in the semi-final at Nowlan Park at 2pm. This clash sees the 2016 champions versus the 2017 winners…. Meanwhile the minors take on the formidable challenge of Galway at Abbotstown, also on Saturday. let’s hope a couple of black and amber wins sets the county up nicely for Sunday’s serving at headquarters