BY NIALL SHERRY
PHOTOS BY INPHO
FINAL BERTH UP FOR GRABS IN CROKER CLASH
All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship, Round 5
Galway 1-17 Kilkenny 2-14
Kenny Park, Athenry
Galway advanced to the semi-final stage of this year’s All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship, by virtue of scoring difference, following an entertaining draw with Kilkenny in Athenry last Saturday.
The result means that Brian Dowling’s charges will now need to navigate a quarter-final against Dublin at FBD Semple Stadium next Saturday (5:30 throw-in).
In a game that ebbed and flowed, it looked like Kilkenny had nicked it, but a late score deep into stoppage time from Aine Keane ensured that the Tribeswomen took the direct route to the last four.
The visitors started brightly, with Denise Gaule registering her first score of the day on 2 minutes, after the impressive Miriam Walsh was fouled. Aoife Norris then launched a booming puck-out that found the Windgap player in space and Denise made no mistake in splitting the posts.
Cathal Murray’s side then almost fashioned a goal chance via Niamh Kilkenny, who was brilliantly hooked by the hard-working Katie Power. The home side then got off the mark in the 6th minute thanks to some nice build-up play, which ended with Ailish O’Reilly pointing.
Denise Gaule then slotted over her second placed ball of the day to restore Kilkenny’s 2-point lead after a foul on Katie Nolan, but Galway responded seconds later thanks to a fine point from Rachael Hanniffy, who despite wearing the No.2 jersey was occupying a midfield berth.
The stripey women then raised what would be the first of two green flags in the west. St Martin’s Katie Nolan found Miriam Walsh who struck her shot nicely past Sarah Healy in the Galway goal. The westerners hit back minutes with a major of their own. After a little scramble close to the Kilkenny goal, Aoife Norris cleared the ball away, only for the alert Sabina Rabbitte to smash home the loose ball.
Clarinbridge’s Carrie Dolan then got her first score of the game from a placed ball to leave the sides level half way through the opening period. The same player registered a point from play shortly after, again after some nice approach play. The all-action Niamh Kilkenny then caught the Kilkenny defence trying to play out from the back and duly punished them by pointing. The hosts were on a roll and just moments later, Dervla Higgins rifled over to push her side’s lead to 3 points.
Kilkenny’s decision to try and take short puck-outs due to the strong wind that they were playing into, was inviting pressure onto their defence, who were being pounced on by the Galway attackers. Young Irelands Tiffanie Fitzgerald was then harshly booked by referee Andy Larkin and Dolan converted the resulting free. The Noresiders had now gone 15 minutes without scoring.
Siobhan Gardiner then outpaced and outfought Katie Nolan to a loose ball before composing herself to fire over the bar. Then following another scramble in the Kilkenny square, Niamh Hanniffy popped the ball over to increase the Galway lead to 6 points. Brian Dowling’s team looked to be in a spot of bother.
Michaela Kenneally then ended the scoring drought when she got onto a breaking ball before splitting the posts. That was the first time in some 20 minutes that the umpires at that end were required to raise a flag. Katie Power then played a nice ball to Miriam Walsh who turned away from Niamh Kilkenny before being fouled. Walsh managed to find Julieanne Malone with her pass and the Mullinavat player sent over a fine point. That would be the last action of the half, as Andy Larkin blew for the interval on a score line of Galway 1-9, Kilkenny 1-5.
The second period began like the first, with the visitors opening the scoring with a lovely point from Tullaroan’s Miriam Walsh, following a long ball out of defence. Galway then almost hit a second goal only for Piltown’s Aoife Norris to deny Niamh Kilkenny. The home side opened their second half account with a point from the lively Sabina Rabbitte.
The free-takers Gaule & Dolan then exchanged points before the third goal of the game arrived. Some good pressure on the Galway defence forced a throw-ball which referee Larkin spotted. Denise Gaule stepped up to take the free as per normal. As she stood over it, she saw Miriam Walsh unmarked on the ‘21. Gaule hit the free short to Walsh, who despite mis-controlling the initial ball, regained her composure to send a fierce shot to the Galway net. The gap was down to the minimum. Game on in Athenry.
Aoife Norris then made another fine save from an Aoife Donohue effort to deny the Tribeswomen a second major. Carrie Dolan then fired over another free following a throw-ball to settle the home crowd’s nerves. Michaela Kenneally then found Katie Nolan with a nice pass out on the left sideline, and somehow Katie managed to rifle over an exceptional point, when the odds seemed against her.
Minutes later, an excellent pass out of the Kilkenny defence by Barrow Rangers Miriam Bambrick found Katie Nolan. The St Martin’s sharp shooter took possession of the sliotar before turning and firing over another cracking score to levels things once more. Galway hit back straight from the restart via the menacing Sabina Rabbitte.
Denise Gaule, leading from the front as always, then hit two in a row, one from a free, the other a fine score from play. Carrie Dolan then mis-hit her next free, but the alert Rabbitte pounced and popped it over the bar. Gaule then fired over monster free from way out the pitch to edge the stripey women ahead, before Clara’s Mary O’Connell struck over another quality point to push the Kilkenny lead to two points.
Siobhan McGrath then scored from the restart, before Aoife Norris, again, prevented a second Galway goal, this time managing to block Niamh Hanniffy’s goal-bound effort. Mullagh’s Aoife Donohue then struck a mighty point to level matters again. The home crowd roared; Kenny Park was rocking.
Kilkenny knew a win was needed, and they went for it. Denise Gaule got on the ball and found Miriam Walsh with a nice pass, and the Tullaroan woman somehow managed to strike over a stunning score from an acute angle. Those in black and amber now led by 1. The home side didn’t panic. The game was in stoppage time. Galway secured possession and worked the ball to Aine Keane out on the left. Just like Miriam Walsh moments earlier, the St Thomas’s player managed to fire over from a seemingly impossible angle. Deadlock again. Game over. Galway Progress to the semi-final.
For Kilkenny, well we will look to join the westerners by beating Dublin next week. It’s all still to play for.
>> SHERRY SAYS…..
Our senior camog’s are very much alive & kicking. A hugely entertaining draw in Athenry against old foes Galway, saw us once again lose out on scoring difference, just like the League.
There will have been plenty of work done since this game, and Brian Dowling & Co. Will no doubt use the positives from this game to get their charges ready for the trip to Tipp next week, when the Dubs will provide another stern test of the stripey women’s championship credentials.
Denise Gaule was once again outstanding. Miriam Walsh is playing some mighty stuff and showed great composure in striking for her two majors. Katie Nolan was involved in a hell of a battle with the Galway defence, and struck a couple of lovely points.
The defence will need to tighten up a little, but that will happen. I felt that they came out on the wrong side of a few decisions last week, but you learn with every game.
Aoife Norris produced a phenomenal between the posts. The Piltown netminder came to her team’s rescue on several occasions in Kenny Park. She was definitely channeling her inner “Eoin Murphy” with that performance.
As the manager said afterwards, Kilkenny love to hurl against Galway and vice versa. There’s rarely a dull encounter when these two meet.
Get past the Dub’s and who knows – we may meet the Tribeswomen again. One step at a time.