Champions Cork had their grip on the Irish Daily Star Camogie League Division 1 title loosened by a mighty Clare effort in Kilmallock but with Orla Cotter putting in an inspirational shift, they showed just enough nous to retain it and progress to the final after extra time writes Daragh Ó Conchúir.
They will be joined in the decider by Wexford, who chiselled out a victory over Kilkenny. Not for the first time, the Model County women had Ursula Jacob to thank, with the Oulart-The Ballagh woman in trademark accurate form.
Four consecutive points from Eimear O’Sullivan, Briege Corkery, Cotter and Síle Burns propelled Cork to a 0-8 to 0-4 half-time lead.
Cotter stretched the margin to five but Clare dominated the remainder of normal time. Three frees from Claire McMahon reduced the gap to two points with six minutes remaining.
Deirdre Murphy was a constant menace in the Banner attack and she scored a magnificent point from a tight angle to leave one between them, before slotting the equaliser right on the hour.
The sides shared four points in the opening period of extra time but in the second half, Cotter’s sixth point and scores by Fiona Neville and Katrina Mackey sealed their progression to the decider.
It will be a repeat of last year’s final as Jacob’s goal after 90 seconds was the significant moment in the other semi-final, where Wexford came out the right side of a 1-10 to 1-5 scoreline. The sharpshooter provided 1-7 of her side’s tally and had 1-4 on the board as Wexford led by 1-5 to 0-0 after 20 minutes.
Anne Dalton provided Kilkenny with their first score from a 45 in the 26th minute, after Aoife Neary was denied a goal by Mags D’Arcy. Neary did beat the Wexford goalie just before the short whistle though and the Noresiders went in at the break with hope, trailing by just 1-6 to 1-1.
Dalton did convert a couple of frees in the second half but with Karen Atkinson and Mary Leacy in commanding form through the spine of the Wexford defence, they never looked like getting another goal.
Meanwhile, Limerick will play newly-promoted Kildare in the Division 2 final, after victories over Kilkenny (4-12 to 0-12) and Waterford (0-12 to 0-8).
The Lady Lillies have made remarkable progress in recent years and have continued that trend by putting themselves an hour away from Division 1, having been operating in the bottom tier three years ago.
Jim McMullen's charges were completely dominant in the first half and while they had a slight wind advantage, it couldn’t be used as an explanation for their 0-8 to 0-1 lead at the change of ends.
Trish Jackman provided Waterford’s sole score from a free but the Déise were on the back foot for the majority of proceedings, thanks in no small part to the superiority of Kildare’s half-back line of Angela Lyons, Carol Nolan and Orla Bambury.
The Waterford defence had a tendency to foul under the onslaught and were severely punished by Susie O'Carroll, who provided all of her side’s points in that opening period, six of them from frees.
Unsurprisingly, Waterford upped their tempo considerably after the resumption. Shona Curran and Lyons exchanged scores but the Munster outfit scored three on the trot – including a fine effort by Jenny Simpson – to put just four between them.
Caroline Forde steadied the ship with a point and when Siobhan Hurley and O’Carroll raised further white flags, Kildare were cruising.
Waterford threw everything forward in the last 10 minutes though and scored three more frees from Jackman. They couldn’t find a goal though and Kildare advance.
They will face a very stern examination of their Division 1 aspirations from Limerick though. The Shannonsiders did all the damage in the first half, when Mary O’Callaghan bagged a hat-trick of goals and the excellent Caoimhe Costello added another, to give them a 4-6 to 0-8 lead at the interval.
Kilkenny kept fighting but Limerick were comfortable throughout, with last year’s U16 star Costello, Rebecca Delee (0-3) and Niamh Mulcahy (0-5) very prominent, while they also shot a total of 13 wides, to their opponents’ five.
Áine Kinsella was deadly accurate for the Black And Amber, firing nine points (eight from frees), while Áine Fahey added a brace.
Dublin will play Laois in the Division 3 final after two tight semi-final encounters. The Metropolitans’ second team came out on top of a competitive tussle with Armagh 0-10 to 1-4.
Not for the first time, last year’s Division 4 champions were thankful to the efforts of Georgina Kelly, who scored five points. Emer Keenan, Alison McGrath, Róisín Collins, Elaine Gallery and Emer Flanagan completed the scoring for the winners.
Laois prevailed by 1-12 to 1-4 against Roscommon. Catriona Regan converted three frees for the Rossies while Annette McGeeney slotted their goal but Laois were that bit more threatening in attack.
The ultra-reliable Louise Mahony equalled the Roscommon tally with seven points. Three of those scores came from play in a fine performance by the Harps clubwoman. Niamh Dollard added three points for the midlanders.
Carlow made light work of Kildare’s second team to book their place against Tyrone in the Division 4 final. The young Lilies had no answer to the efforts of Ciara Quirke (1-3), Eleanor Treacy (1-2) and Kate Nolan (1-0) and it was a comfortable 3-11 to 0-0 victory for the red, green and gold.
Tyrone had too much for fellow Ulster outfit Cavan in the other semi-final, taking the spoils by 3-10 to 1-4. Niamh McNulty, Maria Jordan and the pacey Julie Lagan scored 1-1 each and with Aisling Corr contributing four points, it was always comfortable for the Red Hands. Sinéad Moore grabbed the Cavan goal.