Division 1 Final
Galway v Kilkenny
While Cork not making the last four was notable, and Limerick and Tipperary almost gave us a Final pairing that would never have been predicted at the beginning of the season, we were left with two of the most consistent sides of the past three years when the smoke finally cleared.
The last major final the counties crossed swords in was the 2013 All-Ireland. Much was made of Galway’s need, having failed to build on the promise of their maiden success in 1996, but Kilkenny haven’t reached their ‘Promised Land’ since two years prior to that, when current manager, Ann Downey was captain.
The Noresiders were back 12 months later but failed to perform once more, having looked invincible for much of the season, when winning the Irish Daily Star National League Division 1 title before waltzing through the group stages and semi-final of the championship.
Galway succeeded them as Irish Daily Star League National League champions but fell short in the All-Ireland Final. Kilkenny looked promising for much of the year but could not find an extra gear when the pressure came on.
With that in mind, they will have been delighted by being pushed to extra-time by Tipperary as to progress while having weaknesses highlighted is much more preferable to comfortable victories that mask deficiencies.
While Galway have a 100 per cent record so far under new manager Ollie Bergin, the Noresiders lost to Cork in Piltown last March and with three teams level at the top of their group, it was their scoring power that saw them advance to the Semi-Finals.
Downey’s crew comprises plenty of experience to go with their star quality. The switch of Anne Dalton back to her natural midfield habitat paid dividends against Tipp, while Denise Gaule, Edwina Keane and Emma Kavanagh are other vital operators.
For his part, Bergin could call on Molly Dunne, Annmarie Starr and Orlaith McGrath from the bench as Galway saw off Limerick thanks to Niamh McGrath’s injury time winner. And not for the first time, Niamh Kilkenny and Lorraine Ryan made significant contributions.
In truth, these are two teams with real depth and they should provide supporters with a humdinger.