Cork, Kilkenny, Galway and Limerick are through to the Division 1 semi-finals of the Irish Daily Star National League, which will be played on Sunday, April 22.
Cork and Limerick were already certain of their spots in the last four but Kilkenny and Galway had to beat Clare and Wexford to make sure, something they managed with plenty in hand.
A young Galway team were majestic in accounting for understrength Wexford 2-23 to 0-9. The teams shared six points early on but it was notable that Galway full-forward Molly Dunne was causing problems, having already scored two points.
Orlaith McGrath added another brace as Tony Ward’s side doubled their tally and when Dunne fired to the roof of the Wexford net after good work from Niamh Kilkenny and Ailish O’Reilly, the writing was on the wall for the Yellowbellies. Linda Bolger did convert three frees from that juncture but Galway had the scoreboard ticking over regularly and led by 1-14 to 0-6 at half time.
O’Reilly pounced for a goal three minutes into the second half and there was no doubt about the result thereafter, with substitutes Laura Mitchell and Jessica Gill joining the McGrath sisters (Niamh finished with 0-8, Orlaith 0-5), Dunne (1-3) and Niamh Kilkenny (0-4) on the scoresheet. Bolger had seven points for Wexford, five of which came from frees.
Champions Kilkenny produced a scintillating performance in Clonlara when inflicting a 17-point beating on the hosts to make it safely to the last four on a 4-15 to 0-10 scoreline.
Clare were competitive for the opening 20 minutes in the repeat of last year’s final, but two goals from Michelle Quilty shattered their resistance. Both scores showcased Quilty’s poaching talents as they were smart finishes from rebounds. That made it 2-8 to 0-6 at half time and when Ann Dalton buried a third goal just 22 seconds after the resumption, it was curtains for the Bannerwomen.
Colm Horan’s charges were much too reliant on Chloe Morey for scores, as she contributed seven points, five of which came from frees. By contrast, Kilkenny produced a complete performance, with all the forwards dangerous and the defenders unwilling to give up a goal chance. Megan Farrell found the Clare net once more after 50 minutes, with the one bright spot for the home team being the return after a cruciate knee ligament injury of Ailish Considine.
Limerick maintained their unbeaten record with a hard-fought 0-13 to 1-8 win over Offaly. They led by 0-7 to 0-4 at half time thanks to a couple of points from Aoife Sheehan and three converted frees by Niamh Mulcahy, who finished with eight points. A Niamh Larkin goal early in the second half brought the teams level but Rebecca Delee and Mulcahy pulled Limerick three clear and though Siobhan Flannery (0-5) kept Offaly in touch, they couldn’t break down the Shannonsiders’ defence one more time.
Meanwhile, Cork returned from their holidays in the morning to chisel out a desperately hard-earned win over Derry 1-13 to 1-6. Mairead McNicholl opened the scoring for the Oak Leafers before Orla Cotter and Sara Fahy gave the visitors the lead. Karen Kielt hit back with two converted frees either side of a Jen Hosford point for Cork.
Mary Kelly tave the home side a huge boost when she broke through to raise a green flag but Amy O'Connor and Cotter hit back with points to leave the Leesiders trailing by one at half time, 1-3 to 0-5.
Cork managed to shake off the relaxed vibe of foreign climes in the second half as they found another level. Cotter, who finished with eight points including three from play, and Hannah Looney put them ahead before Derry's top scorer Kielt (0-4, 2fs) levelled from a free.
The Derry defence coped well with Cork's threat generally, led by Megan Kerr and Grainne O'Kane, and with Hannah Robinson make her debut between the posts and it was only when Looney goaled that the Rebels had some breathing space.
In Division 2, Laois beat Westmeath 3-12 to 1-5 to put them in a semi-final with Kilkenny, who edged out Cork 1-12 to 0-13. Sarah Anne Fitzgerald, Louise Mahony and Niamh Dollard were the Laois goalscorers and the trio added nine points between them, while Sharon Moylan, Michelle Holmes and Aisling O’Dea were also on the mark. Dinah Loughlin scored 1-3 for the Lakesiders, with Denise McGrath on the scoresheet as well.
In the other semi-final, Kildare will play Waterford.
Also in Division 2, Galway completed a double over Wexford. Amy Caulfield scored 2-2 and Rachel Monaghan nine points as the Tribeswomen prevailed by 2-12 to 0-8.