Preview: Thrilling weekend of camogie action in store as best four battle it out
By Sarah Stanley
And then there were four.
The All-Ireland Camogie semi-finals take place this Saturday in a Páirc Uí Chaoimh double-header and Sarah Stanley previews the games here.
Cork v Kilkenny, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Cork, 12.30pm, Owen Elliot (Antrim)
For many years this was the clash that seemed destined for Croke Park Final day, as was the case from 2016 to 2018 however for the second year in succession that is no longer the case as one of these two greats of the game will bow out of the Championship before All-Ireland Final day.
After finishing as runner-up in Group 1 that featured the reigning champions Galway, Cork were made to work even harder to secure their Semi-Final passage, with a Quarter-Final victory over Clare showcasing their abilities once again in Championship Camogie.
The Rebels put Clare to the sword in the final ten minutes of the second-half, after Clare stuck with the former champions all the way through the game. Indeed, it was in the remaining minutes of action that the goals started to reign down on Clare, who will feel that the scoreline did not do their performance justice.
With attackers like Amy O’Connor and Katrina Mackey to rely on it takes a pretty strong defensive unit to keep them at bay, with the latter claiming the Player of the Match award after a clinical display in front of goal, while O’Connor bagged herself two goals and set up Mackey for hers.
Between them the pair scored 3-3 in the Quarter-Final, while Orla Cronin also helped herself to 0-6 and looked strong from placed balls. The defence also managed to keep Clare goalless, indeed they only conceded one goal in the campaign to date, against Wexford, which will no doubt please their manager Paudie Murray.
The Rebels will be desperate to get back to the All-Ireland decider after suffering heartache in this stage last year, at the hands of the eventual champions Galway.
The Cats are looking to make an incredible fifth consecutive All-Ireland Senior Final appearance and put the memories to bed from the previous three deciders. Unbelievably they have made six of the last seven All-Ireland deciders but have only managed to get over the line on one occasion back in 2016.
Nobody can doubt their experience and they once again showed that in their group campaign to date. They finished top of Group 2 which featured Limerick, Waterford and Westmeath, securing their Semi-Final place with distinction.
A tricky opening fixture on the road against Waterford was first on the agenda for Kilkenny, who completed their task to secure a 0-15 to 0-8 victory over the Munster side. That set them up nicely in the group and a heavy victory over Westmeath followed.
The Cats ran rampant against last year’s Intermediate champions scoring 6-23 to Westmeath’s 1-7. Their passage to the knockout rounds was secure, and the Cats finished off their group campaign against Limerick with their third victory in as many games, this time running out 2-16 to 0-8 victors.
While the majority of their total came in one fixture Kilkenny did finish their campaign scoring a total of 8-54 which should put fear into the Cork defence this weekend. Their defence have only conceded the one goal, however they will be tested against some of the best finishers in the game this weekend.
Brian Dowling’s charges will be rearing to go and if they can produce the form that they have showed in their campaign to date they will provide a real test to the Cork backline. Crucially they will also need their own defence to stand tall, so it will need to be a complete performance this weekend to ensure that they are once again back in the All-Ireland decider in two weeks’ time.
Galway v Tipperary, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Cork, 2.15pm, Ray Kelly (Kildare)
Reigning champions Galway will put their crown on the line this weekend as they enter their first knockout match of the Championship. It has been a successful campaign to date for Cathal Murray’s side who finished top of their group to secure straight passage into the Semi-Final.
In a group that contained some difficult challenges, the team continued to get stronger as the weeks progressed. An away trip to Wexford was first on the bill and a high scoring game with eight goals scored was played out in Bellefield.
The Connacht side ended with a 5-17 to 3-9 victory to set them on their way after goals from Catherine Finnerty, Ailish O’Reilly (2) Niamh Hannify and Aoife Donohue done the damage for the Tribeswomen.
That result was followed up with another fine performance in the following fixture, this time they welcomed Offaly to Pearse Stadium, where they put on another show to secure a 3-13 to 0-3 victory, with Niamh Hannify scoring two more goals and Aoife Donohue also finding the net for the second game in succession.
That result meant qualification to the knockout rounds was secure. The final fixture would decide whether it was a Quarter-Final or a Semi-Final appearance that they would earn. Indeed, it was a tasty fixture that remained as it was a repeat of the 2019 All-Ireland Semi-Final clash between two heavyweights of the game, Galway v Cork.
Galway looked strong in all areas of the park and completed a professional performance to secure top spot with a 0-15 to 0-12 victory. While the margin of victory was only three points, Galway keeper Sarah Healy did manage an early penalty save which could have changed the outcome of the game had that strike found the back of the net, but it wasn’t to be and the Connacht side marched on to another Semi-Final berth.
Tipperary are back in the Semi-Final stages for the third successive year after falling at the same hurdle in the previous two campaigns. They are no doubt a stronger outfit this year, and their results to date have backed up that claim after a superb League campaign that saw them reach the Final, only for COVID-19 to draw a halt to the competition.
They have since brought that form into their Championship campaign after securing qualification to the Quarter-Finals from Group 3. Bill Mullaney’s side scored a combined 1-33 in their two group fixtures with Clare the only team to break through the Tipperary rearguard and find the net.
Their group exploits earned them a Quarter-Final appearance against their Munster counterparts Waterford, in what turned out to be a tight contest in the opening half in Páirc Uí Chaoimh two weeks ago.
The Premier County led by 0-8 to 0-6 at the interval after a cagey opening half that saw both sides fearful of making any mistakes. Cáit Devane looked in supreme form from placed balls and continued to knock over scores with relative ease.
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Indeed, the scoreline finished with five points between them, but the Semi-Finalists never seemed in trouble of losing the game after they grabbed the only goal of the game on the 40-minute mark. Despite the attacking prowess which Tipperary possess the goal came from the most unlikely of sources as centre half-back Karen Kennedy broke up the pitch to latch onto a loose ball and find the net.
It was excellent game management after that as Tipperary wrapped up a 1-12 to 0-10 victory to secure their place in the Semi-Final. Clare remain the only team to score a goal against them proving that their defence are as solid and secure as their forward line are clinical.