Bill Mullaney promised that Tipperary would bounce back after his side fell to a 1-11 to 0-13 defeat to Galway in Ballinasloe on Saturday, the All-Ireland champions only hitting the front when Rebecca Hennelly pointed a pressure free in the eighth minute of injury time to send her team into the Littlewoods Ireland Camogie League Division 1 final against Cork on April 9.
Galway’s midfield dynamo, Aoife Donohue conceded to feeling relieved to have escaped from the victory though unsurprised by the vehemence of the challenge from a team that had pushed them all the way in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final.
Donohue was involved in one of the game’s key incidents, getting entangled with Casey Hennessy after the Tipp forward had dispossessed her, leading to Hennessy’s dismissal at the beginning of the second quarter. Hennessy had already scored two points by that juncture and though Tipp led by 0-9 to 0-4 at half-time, it did not seem sufficient given that their numerical disadvantage and the strong wind they would be playing into after the resumption.
In the end however, Cathal Murray had to send for the big guns and within two minutes of their 47th minute introduction, Orlaith McGrath set up sister Siobhán for a goal and then shot an equalising point.
Cáit Devane slotted her seventh point of the day from a free to restore Tipp’s advantage but Hennelly levelled from inside her own half and then when John Dermody judged that Claire Hogan had charged into Sarah Dervan, the sweet-striking ciotóg made little of the pressure to complete the smash-and-grab job.
Mullaney was incensed by the decision against Hogan and could not comprehend Hennessy’s sending off either.
“I’m not happy at all,” said an irate Mullaney. “Why would I be? Some of the refereeing decisions were scandalous. Down to 14, two people pulling on the ball and one of ours gets sent off. I know it’s hard (for refs) but some of the decisions were incredulous. Two people going for the ball (at the end) and a free goes against us. Are you joking me?
“Ciardha Maher was going through a minute before that and she was getting cut in two, and nothing. And Cáit Devane on this side. Now I know Galway people could say the same thing but if you’re going to call a free call them all the time or don’t call them at all. And don’t be deciding a match by giving a soft free like that.
“We hurled as well as we could with 14 players for 50 minutes of the game and we put it up to Galway. It was a massive task even with 15. They’re not All-Ireland champions for nothing. But the (sending off) decision was very poor when two players were doing the same thing to each other.
“I’m proud of our players. I was nearly in tears there and they’re in tears. They couldn’t work any harder or do any more. But this is not fair. You may hear me shouting and roaring but I’m not one for giving out about refs (after a game). You need them all and they’ve a very hard job. But be consistent. How do we explain that to players after them giving their all?”
Mullaney promised that the group would put the disappointment behind them however, as they looked forward to their next outing, in the Munster Championship, and then making an impact in the All-Ireland Championship. And he conceded that there were areas his charges could improve on.
“We have to learn too. It’s hard to stomach ten minutes after a game and you’re being interviewed when you’re still emotional about it but we’ve to gather ourselves and we will. And we’ll go on and we’ll try to beat Limerick who’ll be a tough outfit as well, and try and progress again through to season and be ready for the (All-Ireland) championship.
“They’re a good squad and they’ll put this behind them, put it in the bank and use it again going forward.”
Donohue praised the valiant Tipp outfit.
“We’re relieved to come out the right side of that,” said Donohue. “A couple of years ago we mightn’t have got through. Tipp pushed us all the way. It was a hugely physical game and both teams went at it. We knew we had to be at our best to compete with Tipp. They’re a serious team and they pushed us all the way in the (All-Ireland) semi-final last year.
“But we’re looking forward now to a League final in a couple of weeks’ time. You want to be playing as many matches as you can at this stage of the year so we’re just happy to put ourselves in that position.”
The Mullagh star hailed the contribution of Áine Keane, who nicked two points and was a fantastic ball winner throughout but it was the contribution of two more familiar faces that brought Galway within touching distance when they were struggling.
“Fair play to Siobhán and Orlaith, they’d a serious run with Sarsfields a couple of weeks ago. Orlaith was in Manchester. I think Cathal only texted the two girls on Tuesday and Orlaith got an early flight home to be here. It shows the competition that’s in the group and everyone is pushing for places.
“We knew once we got the ball into them they’d do the business. They were only on the field I’d say five minutes and they’d 1-1 scored between them. It’s just pushing everyone on. The standards are huge and there’s huge competition for places, so they’ve certainly put their hands up. They’re only just back into the set-up and they haven’t had that long a break so credit to them for coming in.”
Yesterday was a red-letter occasion as Dublin played their first senior camogie game at Croke Park since 2011 and a fortuitous second-half goal from Aisling O’Neill set the seal on a 1-13 to 0-6 victory over Down.
The Mournewomen were overly reliant on Niamh Mallon for scores however, while Dublin could call on the likes of Maher, Nicola Gannon and O’Neill.