Galway and Cork will play in the Division 1 Final of the Irish Daily Star National League after the battling to overcome Kilkenny and Limerick in their respective semi-finals.
It was easier for Galway than many would have expected as they beat champions Kilkenny by 5-7 to 2-9 at O’Connor Park in Tullamore.
The tie hinged on a period of play in the second half, when Denise Gaule had a penalty saved with four points between the sides.
Miriam Walsh did reduce the margin to three but Galway struck for two goals from the next two attacks to put the game to bed.
Tony Ward’s outfit tore into a 1-4 to 0-0 lead in the opening quarter, getting a dream start as Niamh McGrath blasted a penalty to the net in the first minute, after a foul on the ever-dangerous Ailish O’Reilly.
McGrath was to finish with 2-4 and she added three pointed frees to a score from Molly Dunne to give the Tribeswomen a healthy advantage.
Kilkenny got themselves back into it via points from Gaule and Katie Power but a brilliant 25th minute goal from O’Reilly made it 2-6 to 0-4 at half time.
Gaule gave Kilkenny the goal they needed straight after the resumption, with Gaule doing the business after taking a pass from Walsh.
Then came the significant period that decided the game, Ann Marie Starr and McGrath getting the key Galway goals.
Ann Dalton had another penalty saved late on and though Gaule grabbed her second goal two minutes from time, there was still time for O’Reilly to do likewise.
Cork were made work very hard by a Limerick side continuing to make giant strides and it was only in the last 10 minutes that the All-Ireland champions’ experience showed as they pulled away for a 1-12 to 0-10 victory.
Cork went ahead early on with a goal from Amy O’Connor and she added a quick point before the Limerick defence, in which Sarah Carey excelled, managed to put the shackles on her.
It was to prove an essential opening though as Limerick fought back well with the magnificent Niamh Mulcahy scoring points from frees and play. Noreen Barry forced Cork goalkeeper, Amy Lee into a fabulous save but with the wind at their backs in the second half, the Shannonsiders would have been pleased to be trailing by just one point at the change of ends, 1-5 to 0-7.
It was nip and tuck in the second peiord, with Orla Cotter (who finished with six points) and Mulcahy (0-7) exchanging scores. Lee made another good stop to keep her goal intact but Cork finished strongly.
Aisling Thompson and Cotter showed well when it really counted, while Briege Corkery had a massive impact off the bench in that closing period.
Meanwhile, Laois will play Waterford in the Division 2 Final after wins over Kilkenny and Kildare respectively.
Laois had to go all the way to extra time in Tullamore before edging it 1-10 to 0-9 against the Black And Amber. It was the Noresiders that had the better start leading by two points at end of first quarter. They had the wind in their favour and four points from Deirdre Walsh put them 0-7 to 0-2 in front at the break.
Laois used the elements well in the second half with the accurate Louise Mahony scoring five of her seven points to make it 0-8 apiece at full time.
The teams added a point each in the first period of extra time and it was still level when minor captain, Aoife Burke, who had come off the bench earlier, pounced for a goal with two minutes remaining. Emer Delaney added a point to confirm Laois’ place in the decider.
A Siobhán Hurley goal wasn't enough for Kildare as Waterford defeated them by 1-15 to 1-7 in Nenagh.
Dublin will play Carlow in the Division 3 Final. The Dubs were too strong for Limerick in Edenderry, winning by 3-9 to 0-2, while Carlow emerged from Nenagh’s MacDonagh Park on the right side of a 1-10 to 0-7 scoreline.
Venues and throw-in times for the Finals on Sunday May 3rd will be confirmed in the coming days.