Galway had to withstand a heroic effort by Tipperary at Croke Park but a fortuitous goal right on the hour by Orlaith McGrath finally gave them the breathing space to advance to the All-Ireland senior camogie final on September 12 by 1-13 to 0-12 .
They will be sweating on the availability of excellent corner-back Dervla Higgins, who was sent off by referee Ray Kelly three minutes before that following the intervention of his umpires but manager Cathal Murray indicated afterwards that they will be pursuing a case of mistaken identity to ensure her availability for the decider.
Tipperary would have placed a lot of emphasis on being in the game at the end of the first quarter and it seemed like Galway were chasing an early goal to fan the flames of any doubt that might have existed in the Premier women.
Siobhán and Orlaith McGrath looked to take on their markers at every opportunity but the Tipp defence held firm, though Ailish O’Reilly fizzed a ground shot narrowly wide from a tight angle and Siobhán McGrath had another first-time effort blocked by Julieanne Bourke.
The Munster outfit were competitive for much of the opening quarter and actually led by a point after seven minutes, by which stage Orla O’Dwyer had swung over a delightful equaliser to Aoife Donohue’s opener and Cáit Devane had converted a free.
But as the half wore on, it became clear that they were just not as sharp in the really tight exchanges as their opponents and were finding it difficult to get beyond the Galway 45.
When they did, it was through aimless long balls rather than the diagonal deliveries and pop passes to supporting runners that had yielded such tremendous dividends in their narrow League semi-final defeat to Kilkenny last June.
There was no shortage of workrate – it was monumental – but the Galway rearguard dealt comfortably with anything coming their way and had more threatening shots to fire.
After Orlaith McGrath equalised, finished with three points in a matter of minutes from an O’Reilly 45, Niamh Kilkenny, following a trademark gliding run with a an equally typical finish and Donohue to make it 0-5 to 0-2 at the water break.
It was 0-8 to 0-4 at the change of ends and that was a fair reflection of a half that never really took off, though Kilkenny’s second score after deadening a difficult ball brilliantly and then moving effortlessly to her right before finishing from 50m was a real highlight.
Devane, who had missed a few difficult placed-ball opportunities drilled over a free from the middle of the field just before the break though and Tipperary were still alive.
Four minutes and 20 seconds after the restart, they were on the front foot, Devane having driven over three points in the blink of an eye, two frees either side of a snap shot after O’Dwyer had forced a turnover.
There was a clear change in mindset and approach in possession, with more thought in the delivery and it almost yielded a goal, Higgins getting away with a nudge in the back on Clodagh McIntyre.
It was never free-flowing but Tipperary’s belief was growing visibly and they were the better team in the second half, with Mary Ryan and Bourke leading from the back, the touch now sure and Galway the ones looking a little shaky.
It took Cathal Murray’s side 15 minutes to add to their interval tally, via Orlaith McGrath and they Donohue moved them three clear but substitute Miriam Campion snaffled a quick point in replay
The blue and gold contingent will regret getting no return from three further goal opportunities all involving the lightning quick McIntyre, who had a shot saved by Sarah Healy after a blinding run and then failing to find Devane from a good position. She also had a shot blocked in amazing fashion by Sarah Dervan.
Galway had their opportunities too, Caoimhe Bourke doing brilliantly twice to deny Siobhán McGrath and then force the Sarsfields attacker to pop over from close range.
Unfortunately for the ‘keeper though, she allowed a shot for a point from Orlaith McGrath to drop from her hand into the net in a horrible repeat of Áine Slattery’s mistake that cost Tipp in the aforementioned League semi-final, and that ended the hopes of Bill Mullaney’s game crew, though they kept driving forward to notch up points from Grace O’Brien and Devane.
Their dream of a first final in 15 years, when the remarkable Ryan came on as a sub, was dead and it was Galway instead progressing to their third in a row.
SCORERS FOR GALWAY: O McGrath 1-2; A O’Reilly 0-4(3fs, 1 45); A Donohue 0-3; N Kilkenny 0-2; S Spellman, S McGrath 0-1 each
SCORERS FOR TIPPERARY: C Devane 0-6(5fs); O O’Dwyer 0-2; N Walsh, E Fryday, G O’Brien, M Campion 0-1 each
GALWAY: Sarah Healy, Shauna Healy, S Dervan, D Higgins, S Gardiner, E Helebert, C Cormican, N Hanniffy, N Kilkenny, C Finnerty, S Spellman, A Donohue, S McGrath, O McGrath, A O’Reilly. Subs: N McGrath for Finnerty (39), R Hennelly for Hanniffy (49), N Coen for Spellman (56), AM Starr for S McGrath (59), M Cooney for O’Reilly (60+1)
TIPPERARY: C Bourke, M Ryan, M Eviston, J Bourke, E Loughman, K Kennedy, A McGrath, E Fryday, C Devane, E McGrath, N Walsh, O O’Dwyer, C McIntyre, R Howard, G O’Brien. Subs: M Campion for E McGrath (42), K Blair for Fryday inj (51), S Delaney for Eviston (59)
REFEREE: Ray Kelly (Kildare)