AIB All-Ireland senior club camogie semi-final
Oulart-The Ballagh (Wexford) v Loughgiel Shamrocks (Antrim)
Loughgiel are the only one of the semi-finalists yet to taste the ultimate success but the path they have taken to the final four suggests that they should not be taken for granted by a power-packed Oulart-The Ballagh.
The Shamrocks recovered from a shock defeat in the county championship in 2013 thanks to a renewed vigour and the input of men of the calibre of Johnny Campbell, who captained the club from a small Antrim village to All-Ireland senior hurling success in 2012.
They really made the wider camogie community sit up and take notice by dethroning champions, Eoghan Rua in the Ulster final. The Derry girls gave Milford a huge fright in the penultimate round 12 months ago and were determined to build on that this term.
While Gráinne McGoldrick’s injury was a blow, Eoghan Rua were caught by Loughgiel’s rousing start and with Racquel McCarry, Bróna McIntyre and Emma Connolly shining, the Shamrocks built enough of a lead to withstand a late fightback by the minimum margin.
This is a repeat of the 2012 semi-final when Oulart-The Ballagh were comfortable victors on the way to winning their All-Ireland. They have been largely dominant in Wexford in recent years but haven’t made it back to Croke Park since defeating Drom-Inch of Tipperary.
Their squad contains some of the best players ever to have played the game in the likes of Ursula Jacob and Mary Leacy, while Una Leacy is a direct runner with a wonderful eye for goal. All three have captained Wexford to All-Ireland glory.
Oulart had 10 points to spare over a dangerous Thomastown in the Leinster final at the end of October, getting on top of the Kilkenny representatives early on and showing all their experience to maintain that advantage despite some gritty resistance.
Early goals have become a bit of a trademark as they look to bully the opposition into submission and Una Leacy and Stacey Kehoe did the needful on this occasion. If Loughgiel are to upset the odds – and they are certainly in favour of Oulart – they will need to keep it tight early on. Should they do so, the Model County women are in for a stiff test.