Far from being downbeat about the removal of the All-Ireland U21 hurling final from the Gala All-Ireland final programme, the camogie association have seen the development as an opportunity.
While the hurling certainly attracted a sizeable chunk of last year’s 26,000 attendance, the camogie deciders have traditionally brought in around 16,000 on their own.
This year, all three major Gala All-Irelands will take place at Croke Park for the first time and there is a growing excitement within the association that the addition of the intermediate decider to the programme will provide a carnival of quality action as well as positive promotion for the code.
What is more, with six teams from five counties and all four provinces to be represented, and the competing counties having postponed all major hurling fixtures scheduled for the day, hopes are high that attendance figures will be good.
The senior pairing of Wexford and Galway is notable for the absence of Cork from the final for the first time since 2001.
Chasing a three-in-a-row this term, the Leesiders were edged out by Galway by a point in a tight replay at Semple Stadium, just a week after the two teams had served up a free-flowing thriller in Nowlan Park.
Team captain Therese Maher is the heartbeat of the western unit at centre-forward. Her direct running has been the genesis of many scores for Noel Finn’s charges during the season, with Veronica Curtin and Tara Rutledge the chief beneficiaries. Meanwhile Aislinn Connolly is unerring from placed balls.
Curtin and substitute Aoife Lynskey are the only remaining links with the only Galway team to take the ultimate honours at this level in 1996 but they face a stiff task in overcoming Wexford, who blitzed last year’s runners-up Kilkenny in the semi-final.
JJ Doyle’s crew are chasing a double, having already pocketed league silverware. A combination of power in defence, where Mary Leacy is once again thriving, and pace and trickery up front, where the likes of Kate Kelly and Katrina Parrock are very dangerous makes them a complete outfit. And like Connolly, Una Jacob rarely misses from frees.
Galway prevailed in the round-robin stages by virtue of Jessica Gill’s late goal from distance and one expects that this will go right down to the wire once again, with Wexford possibly having the edge at the death.
Joachim Kelly’s Offaly side will be playing in their third successive All-Ireland as they take on Wexford in the intermediate blue riband. The junior champions have flourished since stepping up a level but Wexford’s panel have been training with the seniors, and are taken to win the first leg of a famous double.
Waterford were Offaly’s victims in last year’s junior final and they are back again in a bid to end years of heartbreak. All Ireland Poc Fada champion Patricia Jackman will bulwark their defence as they attempt to curb the very considerable threat of Antrim’s Jane Adams. It will be tight but the DÚise should come out on top.