AIB All-Ireland Senior Camogie Club Championship Semi-Finals
Burgess Duharra (Tipperary) v Slaughtneil (Derry)
Inniskeen Grattans GAA
Referee: Ray Kelly (Kildare)
IT HAS been a remarkable year for Slaughtneil, achieving a historic treble when annexing Ulster senior titles in Camogie, hurling and football. There is a sense that the men and women representing the south Derry outfit are not finished yet and if the Camogie representatives face a tall order, they possess the tools to keep their run going.
Dominic McKinley’s crew overcame Derry champions Ballinascreen in September to bag another county title, and overcame tremendous odds in accounting for champions Loughgiel Shamrocks in the Ulster Final replay.
Co-manager and father of the Ní Chaiside trio Thomas, passed away four days before the first game and a week later, they trailed by three points with five minutes remaining. Éilís Ní Chaiside was among the scorers as they drew level before goalscorer supreme, Mary Kelly struck for the match-winning goal, having had one disallowed earlier.
Ulster player of the year, Shannon Graham earned player of the match honours, and she forms a dynamic midfield combination with Louise Dougan. The other two Ní Chaiside siblings, Aoife and Bróna are the rocks in a defence that has held firm to date.
Burgess Duharra’s credentials are well established. They secured a fifth consecutive Tipperary championship, although they needed a second bite of the cherry themselves to dispense with Borrisoleigh.
A comfortable win over Granagh/Ballingarry (Limerick) followed before they garnered the Munster title, claiming the scalp of an Inniscarra squad that had beaten All-Ireland champions Milford in the Cork decider in the process. They had 10 points to spare over the 2011 All-Ireland runners-up and in Gemma Grace, Jenny Grace, Caoimhe Maher and Tara Kennedy possess plenty of quality
Sarsfields (Galway) v Thomastown (Kilkenny)
St Brendan’s Park, Birr
Referee: Cathal Egan (Cork)
THIS is a mouth-watering prospect for neutrals, with clear potential of a titanic tussle between two in-form outfits. Both have dispensed with heavyweights to get this far and whichever emerges from this encounter is almost certain to bear the favourites mantle on March 5th.
Thomastown are powered by the Farrell sisters Anna, Shelly and Meighan, a gifted trio that experienced the high of All-Ireland success with Kilkenny last September. They are joined by 16-year-old sibling Eimear – who scored an important point off the bench as the Noresiders fought back from a five-point deficit in the second half to snatch provincial honours against St Vincent’s – as well as cousins Ciara and Aoife.
They had beaten two-time All-Ireland champions Oulart-The Ballagh in the Semi-Final and been fancied to claim their first Leinster title but it needed a goal in the third minute of injury time from another sub, Catherine Walsh to bag a dramatic two-point win.
The Galway Senior championship is arguably the most competitive in the country, and Sarsfields are the fourth different club to annex the title in as many seasons. They will hope to enjoy better fortune than Killimor, Mullagh and Ardrahan, who lost the last three All-Ireland Finals. Indeed Killimor also fell at the last hurdle in 2013, though they did go all the way two years before that.
Sarsfields cannot concern themselves with that right now however, given the extent of the challenge they face in Birr. But they will be battle-hardened by their domestic campaign, having needed a replay to get the better of Mullagh and garner their first title at this level.
They led by five points at the interval in the first game but were a clear second best in the latter period, falling three points behind. They were still two in arrears with eight minutes remaining but dug deep and points from Orlaith and Niamh McGrath ensured another day out.
The McGraths form the backbone of the Sarsfields outfit, with fellow Galway player Clodagh also a key component. Like the Farrells, they have a 16-year-old sibling playing a big role as well. Indeed Siobhán is the Connacht Juvenile player of the year and was named player of the match for the replay. Her sixth minute goal gave her side an advantage they never yielded. To add to the family involvement, the McGrath patriarch, former hurling star Michael is the team’s manager.