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by Daragh Ó Conchúir
AIB All-Ireland Senior Club Championship Semi-Finals
Sunday January 31st
Killimor (Galway) v Loughgiel Shamrocks (Antrim)
St Tiarnach’s Park, Clones, 2pm
Killimor are the last Galway team to win the AIB All-Ireland Senior camogie title back in 2011 but the county’s champions have failed to bring the Bill Carroll Cup west of the Shannon since.
It is a testament to how difficult it is to emerge from Galway that three different teams represented the county of tribes in that period, starting with Killimor in 2013. Ardrahan and Mullagh followed up and it was the former that Killimor defeated to advance to the All-Ireland series this time around. The whittling down of a six-point lead to two in the dying minutes would have caused a few jitters but they just about held on.
Two former Galway players Ann Marie Hayes and Brenda Hanney, who hold five All-Stars between them, remain important contributors. Ann Marie Starr is an inspirational captain, having recovered for a very serious injury to play a full part in proceedings, while Martina Conroy and Susan Keane are key cogs as well.
A shock defeat in the first round of the Antrim championship in 2013 has refocussed Loughgiel Shamrocks and after making amends the following season, they marched to a 20-point procession in this year’s final. They retained their Ulster crown thanks to a 1-14 to 1-9 victory over Slaughtneil of Derry.
Captain Úna McNaughton, Emma Connolly and Bernie McGarry will need to be as solid as they have been to date in defence, while at the other end of the field, if Caitrin Dobbin and Racquel McCarry get a good enough supply, they can make it difficult for anyone.
Killimor will be favourites but will not underestimate their proud opponents.
Milford (Cork) v Oulart-The Ballagh (Wexford)
Carriganore, WIT, 2.30pm
Oulart are pursuing a third All-Ireland in five seasons. That stat would make them firm favourites against most opposition but Milford garnered the coveted silverware the other two years, and beat Oulart in the 2013 semi-final, so it is clear that there is very little to separate the teams.
The champions are ladled with talent from back to front with the recently-married Mary Leacy, Ursula Jacob, Karen Atkinson and Helena Jacob amongst those that possess a swag of All-Ireland medals with Wexford, while the Kehoe twins Shelley and Stacey are inter-county regulars now, with the former captain last season. Indeed Leacy, Jacob and Atkinson have all captained Wexford to All-Ireland success.
They have had to get this far without the services of another Wexford All-Ireland winning skipper Úna Leacy, who had her cruciate knee ligament injury operated on last July. Still, they kept Rathnure at bay after a titanic tussle to claim domestic honours and St Vincent’s by the minimum margin to just about maintain primacy of Leinster. They trailed by eight points at one stage against Vincent’s and by seven at half time, but kept the Dubliners scoreless in the second half while scoring eight points to snatch the verdict.
Milford have their own galacticos, with the last two women to be presented with the O’Duffy Cup in their ranks. Ashling Thompson has continued to develop as a player and leader and how she fares will be vital to the Cork side’s fortunes. Anna Geary called time on her inter-county career  last year but her composure and defensive nous have been vital as Milford made it four-in-a-row on Leeside and in Munster.
Cork football legend, Deirdre O’Reilly is a vital member of the unit too, while Emer Watson and Maria O’Neill are deadly up front. St Catherine’s were accounted for 2-15 to 0-9 in the county final. Newmarket-on-Fergus were the first Clare team to reach a Munster Senior club final and Milford gave them a harsh eye-opener, O’Neill scoring 3-4 in a 21-point success.
If conditions allow, this could be a wonderful spectacle. Regardless of whether it’s fluid or scrappy though, it will almost certainly be close. 
AIB All-Ireland Senior Club Championship Semi-Finals
Sunday January 31st
Killimor (Galway) v Loughgiel Shamrocks (Antrim)
St. Tiarnach's Park, Clones, Co. Monaghan
Throw-in: 2pm
Referee: Alan Lagrue (Kildare)
Milford (Cork) v Oulart-The Ballagh (Wexford)
Carriganore (WIT), Waterford
Throw-in: 2.30pm
Referee: Karl O'Brien (Dublin)

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