THE Semi-Final pairings of the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Premier Junior Championship have been finalised as a result of the last round of group matches.
The games, to be played on August 12th, will see Group 1 victors Westmeath take on Group 2 runners-up Armagh, while the winners of Group 2 Kerry will clash with Dublin.
The tie with the most at stake took place in Group 2, as Roscommon played host to Armagh at the St Dominic’s club in Knockroghery in a winner-takes-all affair. The prize on offer was that crucial second qualifying berth and it was last year’s finalists Armagh that produced a strong second-half effort to take the spoils.
The visitors only had a point in hand at half time, despite flying out of the traps with a goal and two points from brilliant Ciara Donnelly in the first 12 minutes but they failed to score for the remainder of the opening period, while Roscommon fired over four points to be right in contention at the break.
The teams were level within three minutes of the resumption but Armagh won three frees that were converted by Donnelly before the 26-year-old attacker, who plays her club camogie with Eglish in Tyrone, pounced for her second goal as she went on to accumulate a tally of 2-6.
Roscommon never recovered from this flourish and substitute Rachael Merry added the coup de grace with a late goal to make it 3-10 to 0-7 at the final whistle.
Meanwhile, Kerry had no problems dispensing with an understrength Clare by 5-19 to 1-5 in Abbeydorney. Niki Kaiser shot four points for the visitors and Louise McDonnell provided the goal but they were rare bright moments for the Bannerwomen as the girls in green and gold dominated.
The exceptional Anne Marie Leen set up Aoife Behan for a ninth minute goal and it was one-way traffic from that juncture. Patrice Diggin added a point on her way to a game-high tally of seven, before Leen produced the score of the game, catching the sliotar from a Sara Murphy free near the sideline, rounding her marker and slotting over consummately.
Quick-fire goals from Laura Collins, Jackie Horgan and Leen ended the game as a contest, even though McDonnell responded at the other end in a remarkable period of play between the 20th and 25th minutes. It was 4-8 to 1-2 at the interval and sub Jessica Fitzell added a fifth goal leaving Kerry dreaming of greater days.
In Group 1, Westmeath would have to lose very heavily to Dublin to miss out on a place in the last four but instead, they edged out the Metropolitans 1-10 to 2-6 at Parnells to secure top seeding.
It was an impressive effort for the Lakesiders, who were inflicting a first defeat of the campaign on the Dubs despite being shorn of the talents of the McCormack sisters Mairéad, Joanne and Edel due to the latter’s wedding.
It was even more laudable for the fact that they got off to a poor start as Aoife Bulger goaled for the home team in the 10th minute but Dublin failed to trouble the scorekeeper for the remainder of the half as Westmeath began to make better use of a strong wind.
Critically, Pamela Greville raised a green flag seven minutes after Bulger’s score and they hit the last three points of the half via Hannah Core (two) and Sheila McGrath to turn around leading by 1-6 to 1-1.
That didn’t look a sufficient advantage with the elements and Dublin cut the margin to one with eight minutes remaining, subs Evelyn Twomey and Sinead Wylde among the contributors. When Bulger grabbed her second goal, Dublin were in front but Greville hit three points in stoppage time, two from frees and the last from play, to snatch the honours.
In the other Group 1 game, Offaly were far too strong for Wicklow, winning by 4-24 to 0-8 at St Brendan’s Park in Birr. Gráinne Dolan was top scorer for the victors with 1-5, while Terri Delaney, Kelly Salmon and Niamh Walsh added goals, and Gráinne Egan weighed in with seven points. Laura Manley was Wicklow's chief contributor with five points.