By Daragh Ó Conchúir
Three into two doesn’t go which means that Tipperary are the group winners to miss out on a direct route to the Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship semi-finals and the chance to take a breath that would have come with it.
Following a thrilling draw with neighbours Kilkenny at UPMC Nowlan Park (2-8 to 1-11), the Premier were drawn out of the hat for a quarter-final joust with Antrim at Croke Park as part of a double-header with the Limerick/Galway All-Ireland hurling semi-final on Saturday.
In the other quarter-final, also at Headquarters and scheduled to take place before the hurling semi-final involving Kilkenny and Clare, the Cats will play Cork, who pulled away in the second half to record a 3-19 to 0-8 triumph over the Banner’s camogs. This is a repeat of last year’s All-Ireland final won by the Stripeywomen.
Galway, who beat Down by 1-18 to 0-10 to maintain their 100 per cent record, and Waterford, who did likewise as Beth Carton scored 2-10 in their 5-16 to 0-10 defeat of Antrim, lie in wait for the winners, with the semi-finals being held at UPMC Nowlan Park on July 22.
Of the teams that finished bottom in the three groups, Offaly, who failed to score in the second half at a time when they were trailing by only a goal on the way to a 5-14 to 0-5 reverse to Limerick, drew the literal short straw and have one shot of survival in the top tier, as they await the loser of Down v Wexford, with the Ulster contingent having home advantage in that game.
Wexford had had a small chance of progressing to the knockout stages but Dublin got the better of them by 0-16 to 1-10 to ensure they would retain senior status and send the Yellowbellies into the relegation play-offs.
Tipperary manager, Denis Kelly admitted that he would have preferred to have had a three-week break to a semi-final and is expecting a strong examination from an Antrim team that suffered their first defeat against a red-hot Déise side at the SETU Arena.
“We can’t do anything about it now,” the manager told Tipperary Camogie. “We’d probably prefer that extra bit of a break ‘cos bodies are going to be very sore. Antrim are going to give it everything as well in Croke Park so it won’t be an easy game.
“So we’d prefer the break but it is what it is now and we have to refocus the minds, get ourselves back into recovery in the morning, drive on next week and have everything ready for Saturday.”
While Tipp had already been assured of a place in the last six prior to the game, Kelly admitted that losing another game to one of the long-established top three by a small margin would have been tough to take.
“A humdinger of a game, ‘twas nip and tuck all the way through. There wasn’t an inch given or taken there and we’re delighted to come out with something out of it as we’ve been coming down often enough and going home with one- and two-point defeats so ‘twas important we got something out of it. We also topped the group which I suppose helped us in the draw.”
Kelly lost goalkeeper Caoimhe Bourke in the first half through injury and with Denise Gaule causing mayhem, introduced Mairéad Eviston to help turn the tide in his side’s favour.
“That’s the way these things go. They’d an upper hand with Gaule inside. We brought in Mairéad and she did a right good job on her. That’s the way it goes. Next day it could be someone else but we can’t wait around, sitting on our hands and we had to make our moves. Today they worked and another day they mightn’t but we were happy they worked for us today.”
There was some confusion over an Eimear McGrath free that had been recorded as a point on the scoreboard and by the Tipperary stats team but when they thought they went in at half-time level, they resumed a point down. But once more, Kelly didn’t make too much of an issue of it. Just like the draw, it is better not to waste energy on anything you cannot impact.
“Disappointed… but we didn’t focus on it at half-time. We said we’d control the controllables, control our work rate and really go at Kilkenny in the second half. So I suppose it worked for us, we didn’t dwell on it too much but at the same time, if we came out losing the game by a point, we’d be very sore going home.”
In the Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Intermediate Championship, Kilkenny play Wexford and Cork play Meath in the next week’s quarter-finals, with Derry and Westmeath qualified for the semi-finals.
Carlow have home advantage in the relegation semi-final against Dublin and the loser will play Laois to determine who makes the drop.
Armagh and Tipperary are confirmed participants in the Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Premier Junior semi-finals, awaiting the outcome of next week’s quarter-finals involving Roscommon and Limerick, and Clare and Cavan.