BY NIALL SHERRY
Defeat sets up all or nothing clash with Wexford
Galway secured top place in the group, and with that automatic passage to the All-Ireland semi-final, having snatched a one-point win over Kilkenny at John Locke Park, Callan recently.
The Westerner’s held on to take the win, despite playing for almost forty-five minutes with 14 players, after corner-forward Catherine Finnerty received a straight red card midway through the first half.
Brian Dowling’s team opened the scoring early on when some nice interchanges resulted in Windgap’s Denise Gaule struck her first score of the game. Kilkenny’s lead was doubled after Aoife Doyle struck a nice point. The Tribeswomen responded with two scores of their own through free’s from Ailish O’Reilly after 10 minutes.
Gaule & O’Reilly exchanged frees, before the cats in-form sharp-shooter Katie Nolan split the posts. Then came the sending off of Galway’s Finnerty. Referee John Dermody then deemed the corner-forwards contact with Claire Phelan suitably dangerous and produced the red card.
In what should have been the catalyst for Kilkenny to kick-on and exploit their numerical advantage, never quite materialised. Leading by 0-4 to 0-3 at this point, the cats continued to dominate play during the second quarter, but only had an excellent point from half back Kelly Ann Doyle after the first water break to show for their efforts. The game became rather congested, with neither side able to drive on.
Tullaroan’s Miriam Walsh was foraging much deeper and hit a wonderful long-range point to try and spark the game into life again. From the resulting puck-out, Aoife Doyle pick up the ball and hot a lovely point to move her side three clear, only for Ailish O’Reilly to hit yet another free, her fifth of the game to reduce the deficit to just two points, before Denise Gaule posted another point from a free to leave Kilkenny leading by three points at the interval, 0-8 to 0-5.
Galway’s manager, Cathal Murray used the break to re-energise his side, as they came out with all guns blazing in the second half. The deadly O’Reilly pointed yet another free from in front of the posts, as Kilkenny’s indiscipline was again punished. Galway should take the lead shortly after, when Siobhan McGrath raised the green flag having a goal from close range.
The cats appeared stunned, and further Galway scores would come from goal-scorer McGrath and Niamh Kilkenny. The Tribeswomen now lead by three 1-8 to 0-8. This is not how it was meant to be; the numerical advantage was not evident; Kilkenny were clearly rattled. Denise Gaule would open the home sides account in the second half with another free as Dowling’s charges attempted to close the gap on last year’s beaten All-Ireland finalists. The same player would trade points with Galway’s McGrath, before hitting another point as the black and amber reduced the gap to just one point with less than fifteen minutes remaining.
Despite a brave effort in the closing minutes of the contest, which saw Piltown’s Aoife Doyle notch her 3rd point of the game, Galway held on for deserved one-point win which saw them finish as group winners and secure a semi-final berth. For Kilkenny, a trip to the rebel county to face Neighbour’s Wexford in a must-win quarter-final tie. No more second chances.
When Kilkenny play Galway, there normally isn’t too much between the sides. The cats emerged victorious from both Decembers All-Ireland final and this year’s league final.
As with all reigning champions, the opposition will view any meeting as a chance to claim a famous scalp. Galway certainly had a point to prove, and they just about did enough to deserve victory in Callan.
The Tribeswomen recovered from the early sending off of corner forward Catherine Finnerty to lay down a marker – but more importantly, progress to the semi-finals.
On the other hand, our camogs will now have to navigate a tricky tie against Wexford at Pairc Ui Chaoimh, Cork on 21st August. Brian Dowling Know’s the next couple of weeks are crucial, as he prepares his squad for this clash. The O’Loughlin Gael’s clubman was not best pleased with his side’s performance against Galway and implied that the westerner’s greater hunger was the key to the victory afterwards.
This group has shown that they can dig deep when it matters most, and they will certainly knuckle down and work hard in the coming days to ensure that the desire, hunger and performance come together when they take to the field in Cork. There are no more second chances…it’s sudden death now.