BY NIALL SHERRY
PHOTOS BY INPHO
Kilkenny primed for final push
Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Senior Camogie Semi-Final
Galway vs Kilkenny
Saturday 5:30pm, Croke Park
All eyes will be on headquarters tomorrow as our camog’s take on old foes and reigning champions Galway for a place in this year’s senior camogie final in what will be a repeat of the 2020 decider which Kilkenny emerged victorious.
The stripey women arrive in the last four, courtesy of a 16-point win over Dublin last weekend, and will be full of confidence as the seek to avenge a go one better than the drawn game in Athenry earlier this month.
Key to the quarter-final win last week and their progress to date this season, has been an incredible work-rate and determination to prevail. Coupled with some outstanding attacking performances from the likes of Denise Gaule and Miriam Walsh, to name but two, it has been the overall team ethic and overwhelming desire to repeat 2020’s feat that drives these ladies on.
Going into tomorrow’s last four encounter with the Tribeswomen, Kilkenny have both the overall championship top scorer and top scorer from play to date in their ranks, in the shape of both the players named above! Denise Gaule leads the overall chart with a highly impressive 2-61, while Miriam Walsh has a stunning 8-19 from play.
The management will know that he needs both these ladies to be firing on all cylinders when they take to the pitch at Croker tomorrow. It would however to be foolish to think that Gaule & Walsh are the only threats that the Noresiders have in their pack. Factor in Katie Nolan, Mary O’Connell and the returning Julieann Malone and this version of Dowling’s Cats are a real handful.
In the absence of the likes of Aoife Doyle, her sister Kellyann through injury, the recently retired Davina Tobin and Collette Dormer, the travelling Meighan Farrell, and all of a sudden you get a glimpse of the strength in depth of the camog’s panel.
We have had some good battles with the westerners of the last couple of years, and given the last couple of results, we perhaps owe Cathal Murray’s side one! The most recent meeting at Kenny Park in Athenry was a real humdinger of an encounter, I for one thought Miriam Walsh’s stunning score from an impossible angle had secured the direct route to the last four, but Aine Keane’s score deep into stoppage time gave Galway the draw they needed to progress to the last four on scoring difference.
That sunny but windy day out west saw one of Aoife Norris’s best performances in the black and amber, as she pulled off save after save to keep her county in the game at times. We can rely on Aoife doing ‘Aoife things’ at Croker tomorrow, should our last line of defence be called into action. Piltown’s netminder not only provides a final barrier at the back, but also a platform for attacks to start via her puck outs. Once again these will be vital in the wide-open spaces at the Jones’s Road venue as we seek to reach the decider again.
In front of Norris will be a full-back line marshalled by Tullaroan’s Grace Walsh. The tenacious Walsh appears to have found her form again and has been a real force in the Kilkenny rearguard. The other ‘constant’ this season has been the experienced Claire Phelan. The Lisdowney woman sometimes is used as a ‘spare’ player or sweeper, and her intelligent reading of the game allows Phelan to snuff out danger and put her team on the front foot.
Another player who has impressed this season has been Tiffanie Fitzgerald. The Young Irelands star has really settled well into senior inter-county camogie, and just like her ‘big’ sister Steffi, the younger Fitz is not afraid to get stuck in. Again, qualities that will be required against the Tribeswomen tomorrow afternoon.
In terms of Steffi, it will be interesting to see who gets the nod to partner her in the engine room against those in maroon. Against the Dubs, Katie Power was Fitzgeralds ‘plus-one’ in midfield, the legendary Piltown player appeared to revel in the role. The fact that this year’s captain, Aoife Prendergast is not a certain starter, again tells you the depth of talent in the county.
Tomorrow’s opponents Galway, to possess a strong panel that is hell-bent on defending their All-Ireland crown. They are perhaps playing this down via the ‘one game a t a time’ cliché, but this bunch have the belief and possibly the talent to back this up.
Sarah Dervan is the mainstay of the Tribeswomen’s defence, be that at No.3 or No. 6.
Heather Cooney, Siobhan Gardiner and Dervla Higgins are other notable players in the defensive unit for the westerners. The latter two players are also more than capable of notching the odd point as well. The Kilkenny forwards will not get anything easy off their markers at Croker.
The middle third for Galway is likely to see Aoife Donohoe and Niamh Kilkenny patrolling this vital zone. Both these players will cover plenty of ground and Kilkenny especially likes to break forward and trouble the score board. The engine room battle will definitely be one to watch.
Galway’s answer to Denise Gaule is Carrie Dolan. The Clarenbridge forward, like our Windgap wonder is deadly accurate from the placed ball, but also offers so much more to the team. Ahead of Dolan in the attacking unit we should find Siobhan McGrath and Sabina Rabbitte. Athenry club woman Rabbitte has been a revelation since entering the senior set-up and was a real menace last time out against tomorrow’s opponents, scoring 1-3 and winning the POTM award. The Kilkenny defence will need to restrict the ball going into Rabbitte and also not give her any space to operate in.
Brian Dowling will have done his homework and be ready for the challenge that Cathal Murray’s side will undoubtedly bring. For the Kilkenny players it simple. De-throne the champions and the chance of lifting another O’Duffy Cup is very much on.
SCORERS FOR KILKENNY: D Gaule 1-10(1-0 pen, 0-10fs); M Walsh 1-3; K Nolan 0-3; M O’Connell 0-2; M Bambrick, L Murphy, K Power, S Dwyer, J Malone, M Kenneally 0-1 each
SCORERS FOR DUBLIN: A Maher 0-9(8fs); N Gannon 1-1; A O’Neill 0-1 (f)
KILKENNY: A Norris, M Teehan, G Walsh, M Bambrick, T Fitzgerald, C Phelan, L Murphy, S Fitzgerald, K Power, J Malone, M O’Connell, M Kenneally, M Walsh, D Gaule, K Nolan. Subs: N Deely for Teehan (44); A Prendergast for Bambrick (47); S Crowley for Malone, A McHardy for O’Connell (both 55)
DUBLIN: E Mooney, M Kelleher, C Buchanan, E O’Brien, R Baker, H Hegarty, E O’Brien, A Maher, G Couch, E Flanagan, N Gannon, J Couch, E Jamieson Murphy, A O’Neill, A Twomey. Subs: K Finnegan for Twomey (37), L Butler for Flanagan (42), E Young for
REFEREE: Justin Heffernan (Wexford)