BY NIALL SHERRY
PHOTOS BY INPHO
Galway dethroned in semi victory
Glen Dimplex All Ireland Camogie Senior Championship Semi-Final
Croke Park, Dublin
Kilkenny 1-13 Galway 0-12
There will be new champions of the senior camogie championship following Kilkenny’s four-point victory over current holders Galway at Croke Park last Saturday. These two giants of the game have produced some wonderful games over the last few seasons, and this encounter certainly lived up to its billing.
The only disappointment was that just under 3,500 spectators witnessed the latest installment between these two great rivals, but those that did were treated to a game that had plenty of drama, excitement and quality.
Brian Dowling’s team managed to shut-out the opposition for the last 16 minutes, which proved crucial as they dethroned the O’Duffy Cup holders.
That stat, coupled with a stunning strike for a major from defender Laura Murphy, and another excellent net-minding performance from Piltown’s Aoife Norris helped Kilkenny get over the line against a side that they really seem to enjoying hurling against.
There was one change to starting XV for the Stripey women, with Niamh Deely coming in for Miriam Bambrick.
The first score of the day came from Mullinavat’s Julieann Malone in the 5th minute, after some good work by Niamh Deely saw the rejuvenated Malone gather possession out on the right, before splitting the posts from some 40 metres, for what would be the first of four vital scores for the Noresiders.
Aoife Norris then prevented Sarsfields Siobhan McGrath from raising a green flag with a fine block. The game was clearly going to be keenly contested, but it took almost 6 minutes for Cork whistler Andy Larkin to award the first free of the day. Where possible, Larking was certainly prepared to let the game flow.
Denise Gaule struck her side’s second score of the day before Clarinbridge’s Carrie Dolan registered the first of seven successful placed ball efforts on the day. St Martins Katie Nolan was looking very lively, and she pointed having taken a nice pass from Michaela Kenneally. A Carrie Dolan free and a lovely score from Catherine Finnerty levelled matters with some 13 minutes of pulsating action played.
One of the games key battles was Miriam Walsh’s tussle with Galway captain Sarah Dervan. This was clear from the first time a ball went into that area. The Tullaroan attacker, who has been in the form of her life this season, beat the full-back to the ball before playing a lovely crossfield pass to Mary O’Connell who looked certain to goal, but her effort went well over the westerner’s crossbar.
Dolan then showed some lovely stick work before rifling over from play over on the Cusack Stand side, before there was a stoppage in play due to referee Andy Larkin having an issue with a contact lens, something that Galway manager Cathal Murray may have led to some decisions being made that were not to the Tribeswomen’s liking!
Julieann Malone then escaped the clutches of centre-back Roisin Black before powering forward and pointing. Dolan popped over another free before the busy Aoife Donohoe was picked out by Niamh Hanniffy and duly pointed. Piltown stopper Norris then did well to deny the rampaging Hanniffy another goal chance. Finnerty was then fouled by The Village’s Michelle Teehan and Dolan did the usual. Galway 7-6 up in the 26th minute.
Then one of the games massive moments. Oranmore’s Niamh Hanniffy collected the ball and played a nice pass to the on-running Siobhan McGrath, who was then upended by Teehan. Penalty! Referee Larkin also showed a yellow card to the defender. Galway sent keeper Sarah Healy up to take the kick, but Aoife Norris was more than equal to the St Thomas’s woman’s effort.
The next few minutes witnessed some big physical hits with no quarter being given be either side. This period of physicality ended with Galway No.14 Ailish O’Reilly taking a big challenge before pointing to put the reigning champions 2 points to the good just before the short whistle sounded. Half-time at Croker, Kilkenny 0-6, Galway 0-8.
Like in the opening period, it would be those in black and amber that would strike first. Galway captain, Dervan guilty of a high challenge on Katie Nolan. Windgap’s Gaule slotted the free over, to bring it back to a 1-point game. Netminder Aoife Norris then prevented a fourth goal-scoring opportunity for the Tribeswomen, when she bravely managed to block Niamh Hanniffy’s goal-bound effort out for a ‘45. Carrie Dolan managed to slot it over to restore the 2-point lead.
The second big moment of the game was on hand. Kilkenny picked up possession out under the Cusack Stand. The industrious Katie Power made a diagonal run with the ball, before sending a precision pass to wing-back Laura Murphy who had roamed forward. The O’Loughlin’s woman gathered the sliotar before turning and sending a fierce low shot beyond the sprawling Healy in the the Galway goal! The Cats now led by one, 1-7 to 0-9, 37 minutes of semi-final action played.
Dowling’s ladies also struck the next two scores via Katie Nolan (free) and another classy point from Mullinavat’s Malone. Her return from down under has added much to this Kilkenny panel. Denise Gaule who was playing much deeper than her number suggested then was booked for hauling down Aoife Donohue, Carrie Dolan got a much-needed score for Cathal Murray’s team. The then hit 2-in-a-row via Aoife Donohue and another placed ball for Dolan. The sides were level again with ten minutes of normal time remaining.
Laura Murphy then found herself in space having vacated her defensive position and manger to pop over a cracking point from distance. Nolan then rifled over a fee after Miriam Walsh was halted in her tracks. Katie Power then sent a nice pass to Julieann Malone who notched her 4th point of the game to leave the Noresiders a goal to the good.
Galway needed a major response, but the Kilkenny defence stood firm, tackling, hooking, blocking and putting their bodies on the lines. Siobhan McGrath sent on a long ball towards the danger zone, but it struck the post and the Cats worked the sliotar up the park quickly. Katie Nolan passed to substitute Sophie Dwyer, who split the posts, much to the delight of the travelling Kilkenny faithful.
The game was deep into injury time, some six minutes, when Andy Larkin blew for full-time. The Cats had done it, another All-Ireland Final beckons for this team. Final Score at Croker, Kilkenny 1-13, Galway 0-12.
Scorers for Kilkenny: J Malone 0-4; L Murphy 1-1; K Nolan 0-3(2fs); M O’Connell, D Gaule (fs) 0-2 each; S Dwyer 0-1
Scorers for Galway: C Dolan 0-8(6fs, 1 45); A Donohue 0-2; A O’Reilly, C Finnerty 0-1 each
KILKENNY: A Norris, T Fitzgerald, M Teehan, Claire Phelan, N Deely, G Walsh, S Fitzgerald, L Murphy, K Power, J Malone, D Gaule, M Kenneally, M O’Connell, M Walsh, K Nolan.
Subs: S Dwyer for Kenneally (49); M Bambrick for Murphy (59), A Prendergast for Power (60), Ciara Phelan for T Fitzgerald (60+5).
GALWAY: Sarah Healy, R Hanniffy, S Dervan, H Cooney, E Helebert, Shauna Healy, R Black, A Donohue, Ni Kilkenny, N Hanniffy, A O’Reilly, C Dolan, C Finnerty, S McGrath, S Rabbitte.
Subs: D Higgins for Rabbitte (37); Á Keane for O’Reilly (54); S Gardiner for Helebert (58); S Spellman for McGrath (60).
REFEREE: Andy Larkin (Cork).