By Daragh Ó Conchúir
The agony of losing last year’s Glen Dimplex All-Ireland intermediate camogie championship semi-final to an injury-time point having led close to the end was a driver for Derry as they recorded a 0-21 to 0-14 extra time triumph over Kilkenny at the same stage this time around in FBD Semple Stadium on Saturday.
As a result, they will play Meath in the final at Croke Park on August 6, after the Royals edged out neighbours Westmeath in a thriller by 1-11 to 0-10 at the same venue.
“It was nailbiting at times,” admitted Áine McAllister, who scored eight points including five from play.
Having led for much of proceedings, it looked like Derry would suffer a similar fate to 12 months ago as an Emma Manogue-inspired Kilkenny reeled off six points on the trot to hit the front.
But an equaliser from Aoife Shaw, who finished with six points herself, earned Derry a reprieve and they made full use of it.
“We fell asleep at times but we definitely redeemed ourselves in extra time, put the hard work in and it paid off,” continued McAllister.
“Towards the end of the second half, they had the momentum. We maybe took for granted the lead we did have and fell asleep a bit but were lucky to have Aoife Shaw do that equaliser so we then got the chance to go to extra time.
“It showed at the beginning of the two halves of extra time the fight that was in us to show there was more in the tank.
“We were here the same stage as last year, All-Ireland semi-final against Cork and it went to injury time and we ended up getting beat by a point. So a lot of the girls on the panel understand that hurt and we were using that as motivation and a way to drive us forward. The girls just want it for each other.”
A goal from Amy Gaffney right on the hour finally separated Meath from Westmeath, who had led by a point at half-time thanks to Sheila McGrath and Megan Dowdall and remained in it right to the end.
“We knew we were coming down to a savagely difficult game,” said Aoife Minogue, who scored four points for the winners. “We played them a couple of weeks ago. Role reversal and they bet us by a few to be fair. So we knew we had an uphill battle but we all rowed in together.
“You need a bit of luck in any quarter- or semi-final and we got it today and are grateful for it… Amy Gaffney got a savage goal at the end that swung it for us but it could have been the other round very, very easily and glad to be on top.
“Us against Derry is always a good battle and we’re just glad to be still in it. We’ll spend the next two weeks prepping to take them on and hope for the best.”
The Glen Dimplex All-Ireland premier junior decider will, like the senior final, be an all-Munster affair as Tipperary and Clare emerged from their jousts with Roscommon and Armagh at Donaghmore Ashbourne.
Clare were another team shedding sorrowful semi-final memories, after losing by a point at the end of two periods of extra time against subsequent champions Antrim at the penultimate hurdle last year.
It was touch and go this time too but despite conceding an early goal for former Cork senior All-Ireland winner and All-Star Jenny Curry, they chiselled out a 0-22 to 2-15 victory thanks to some key scores from Sarah Loughnane and Grace Carmody.
“Unbelievable. Nearly having a heart attack out there to be honest,” was the breathless response of an outstanding Carmody. “We’ve been quite close the past three years so we’re just happy to get over the line and give it a right go in the final.
“It’s all about the purple patch and once you keep performing you’ll get the results. That will stand to us in the final, a good battle, that’s what you want going into a final.
“That’s what we’re training for, working and getting those passes off the shoulder and putting it through the posts. Hopefully it goes that way for us in the final.
“That’s camogie. Goals go in (against you), points are going to go over, you just have to keep tapping away with your own scores and thankfully we’re going to Croker. That’s what you dream of. You don’t get those opportunities a lot and we’re delighted to have the opportunity and we’ll have a right go of it in the final.”
Jean Kelly shot 2-7 as Tipperary saw off Roscommon by 2-12 to 0-8. The two goals arrived within three minutes of one another at the start of the final quarter and put the tie to bed.
“It’s a dream come true to be playing in Croke Park and hopefully we get over the line now,” said Kelly.
“They were a really tough team. Left everything on the line. They were so tough in the rucks. I was hoping the shot (for the first goal) went over the bar but I’m not complaining now. It’s all from the work the girls did. I was just on the breaking ball, that’s it.
“We hadn’t a championship game in four weeks so you could definitely see it in the first half, we were all a bit fumbly… I suppose nerves came into it as well but in the second half we really drove it on and brought the game home.”