Irish Daily Star Camogie League Division 1 final, Clare v Kilkenny, Ger O'Dowd, Semple Stadium, 1.30pm *Live on TG4. Clare caused a minor shock by ending Cork’s three-in-a-row bid in the semi-final but given that they had only lost to the Leesiders after extra time at the same stage of last year’s competition, and beat them in the 2012 Munster final, it couldn’t be described as a sensation. With the younger girls having gained experience and a vital veteran element still having a key role in the squad, the time had come for the Bannerwomen to step up to the plate writes Daragh O'Conchuir.
They have reached their first national final at senior level the hard way though, needing to carve out a dogged two-point win over Limerick to earn a three-way play-off. They didn’t give their Shannonside rivals a sniff next time out however, and a comfortable win over their western neighbours and All-Ireland champions, Galway secured the semi-final berth. The confidence derived from those wins, added to the sharpness the extra games gave them, certainly helped them end the champions’ run.
Kilkenny have had a much more serene progression through the group section, with the Bannerwomen providing their sternest challenge when getting to within five points of them in Ballyhale on March 8. Wexford rallied late on in the semi-final but the Noresiders were good value for their 2-7 to 1-7 victory.
The Black and Ambers had a tremendous championship campaign last season but were dreadfully disappointed to lose the All-Ireland final to Galway. They look very motivated this term and will be desperate to end a drought at national level that goes back to the winning the league in 2008. They have a really strong look at both ends of the field, with Ann Dalton, Jacqui Frisby, Shelly Farrell, Denise Gaule and Elaine Aylward in excellent form.
Clare are in bonus territory but won’t be looking at it like that as finals are for winning. With Máire McGrath, Chloe Morey, Deirdre Murphy, Eimear Considine and Nikki Kaiser in their ranks, they can be expected to fight hard to do just that.
Kilkenny: E.Kavanagh; M.Power ; K.McDonald; J.Frisby; C.Phelan E.Keane; .E.Aylward; A.Dunphy; A.Dalton D.Gaule; M.Walsh; L.Fennelly (Capt); M.Quilty; S.Farrell ; A.Neary
Clare: D.Lynch ; C.Morey; M.McGrath; C.O'Leary; R.McMahon; N.O'Dea; E.Considine; K.Lynch (Capt) O.Duggan; N.Kaiser; F.Lafferty ; D.Murphy ; C.Hennessy ; L.McMahon; E.Horgan
Irish Daily Star Camogie League Division 2 final
Cork v Down, Clane, 2.30pm, Ray Kelly (Kildare)
The impressive aspect of Down’s 100% success rate in Group 1 of the second tier was that they came out on the right side of a couple of fiercely-fought tussles against Antrim and Laois early on. That set them up nicely and they were comfortable from there. Again though, they showed their character by digging out a two-point win over Meath to clear the penultimate hurdle.
Cork were held to a draw by Kildare in their opener on February 23 but did what they needed to from then to top a very tight group by beating Meath and Waterford. With Tipperary withdrawing from Group 2, the Rebels have had the benefit of only four games, including their 2-6 to 0-8 semi-final win over Laois, while Down have had six.
The Mourne women have a battle-hardened outfit that took a little time to bounce back from losing consecutive All-Ireland premier junior finals in 2011 and 2012 but they seem to have regained their mojo and in Fionnuala Carr, Catherine McGourty and Niamh Mallon, possess some of the finest purveyors of camogie skills around.
Cork made reaching this final a target at the start of the year and can call on the talents of former All-Ireland senior winning captain Amanda O’Regan, while Jess Hennigan will threaten the Down defence.
Cork: S.Ryan; S.Buckley; L.O’Sullivan; N.O’Keefe; S.Harrington; C.Foley; S.Hayes; L.Tracey; H.O’Regan; C.O’Neill; C.Desmond; S.O’Neill; J.Hennigan; A.O’Regan; M.Cahalane
Down: M.McNally; J.Fowler; C.McGovern; K.Tinnelly; C.Rocks; F.Carr; G.O’Higgins; A.Keown; L.McPolin; C.McGourty; P.Gribben; K.O’Higgins; N.Mallon; N.Branniff; B.McGourty
Irish Daily Star Camogie League Division 3 final
Dublin v Westmeath, Edenderry GAA, 2.30pm, John McDonagh (Galway)
Dublin’s strength in depth is improving all the time thanks to their success at underage level and that has manifested itself through an emerging crop of players that is currently making up the county’s second string. After winning Division 4 of the Irish Daily Star League in 2012, they went on to reach the All-Ireland Junior A final. Although they lost that decider, they returned last season to make amends and claim the Nancy Murray Cup.
They completed the group stages with an unblemished record, holding Westmeath to only one point as they beat them by nine on March 16. It is difficult to know what one can take from that when analysing this winner-takes-all tie however. The Lakesiders lost to Armagh in the last round by a point but when faced with the Orchard County in the knockout stages, showed all their experience to prevail by five points. Dublin were too strong for Roscommon by eight.
This is Westmeath’s first appearance in the Division 3 final since winning Division 4 in 2011. The Maroons defeated Dublin in the Junior A All-Ireland two years ago and the likes of Dinah Loughlin and Denise McGrath will be looking to draw on that for inspiration. They will need to keep a keen eye on the deadly Siobhán Keogh though, while Georgina Kelly is a heavy scorer from placed balls and play.
Dublin: S.Nic.Coitir; C.O’Leary; G.Ryan; G.Free; R.Nocter; M.Kelly; D.Johnston; E.Maher; C.Burgess; A.McGrath; G.Kelly; E.Flanagan; E.Gallery (C); R.Collins; S.Keogh
Westmeath: F.Keating; E.Murphy; E.McCormack; T.Lynch; C.Corcoran; P.Greville; J.McKeogh; E.Tate; M.McCormack; D.Loughlin;
J.McCormack; C.McCrossan; S.McGrath; J.Egan-Maybury; C.Murtagh
Irish Daily Star Camogie League Division 4 final
Kerry v Limerick, Abbeydorney, 2.3pm, Walter Cole (Cork)
Reaching the final in their first year competing in the Irish Daily Star League is a phenomenal achievement by Kerry, and a testament to everyone involved in Kingdom camogie. Most of all, it is a credit to the team itself and with the likes of high-scoring Sarah Murphy, Patrice Diggin and minor star Niamh Leen in their ranks, they will make a bold bid for honours.
It is a sign of Limerick’s progress too that their second unit is making a national final, the season after their first team annexed the Division 2 title and narrowly failed to add an intermediate All-Ireland. What’s more, they were just two points away from reaching a Division 1 semi-final this time around.
It appears that there is very little between the teams, with Kerry, who have reached the last two All-Ireland junior B finals, edging their group outing by 1-7 to 0-6 in Martinstown on March 9. That was Limerick’s only reverse and it was no surprise to see Ger Curtin’s crew, powered by Noreen Barry and Muireann Creamer, overcoming Tyrone by two goals in their semi-final, while Kerry had to work hard to account for Dublin by three points.
Kerry; M.O’Carroll; T.Moran; A.Fitzgerald; M.Weir; S.Horgan; P.Diggin; M.Costello; N.Leen; AM Leen; E.Ryall; L.Collins; G.McNamara; O.Young; C.Godley; S.Murphy.
Limerick: C.Fitzgerald: G.Lee; N.Barry; C.Neville; M.McCarthy; L.Scanlon: N.Curtin; C.De Bhal; R.Noonan; K.Carroll; E.Kennedy; M.Lynch; M.Clancy; M.Creamer; S.Tobin