By Daragh Ó Conchúir
CATHAL MURRAY acknowledged his charges’ shortcomings in the face of a Waterford whirlwind that left League champions Galway trailing by four points at half-time and in danger of being on the wrong side of one of the biggest shocks in the recent history of the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship.
The proud manager was anxious to emphasis the character and quality of his crew in the latter period however, when Carrie Dolan brought her tally to 10 points from frees as the Waterford defence began to creak under increasing pressure.
Niamh Kilkenny and Noreen Coen snaffled some smart scores and when Ailish O’Reilly goaled in the 54th minute, Waterford were finally seen off and a mouth-watering Semi-Final against the three-in-a-row chasing All-Ireland champions Cork set up for LIT Gaelic Grounds on August 17th.
Waterford contributed fully to a pulsating affair with their best performance at this level. Donal O’Rourke’s side conceded a goal after just 16 seconds to Aoife Donohue but dominated every facet of the game for the remainder of the half.
Beth Carton flourished in a hard-working, deep-lying role and was fouled by Heather Cooney for a third-minute penalty. The De La Salle star drilled a low shot to the net.
Áine Lyng, Fiona Morrissey and Carton added points and though Shona Curran’s goal from a free delivered in midfield was fortuitous, no-one would have said that 2-7 to 1-6 flattered Waterford at the interval.
“We had to weather a serious storm but we knew that coming in, they’re a fierce physical team and in the first half they won all the battles to be honest with you” was Murray’s assessment.
Crucially, Sarah Healy made two excellent saves from Niamh Rockett and Annie Fitzgerald within three minutes of the resumption. A goal then would have been significant but instead, Galway got their running game going and as Waterford tired, the final margin was undoubtedly unreflective of their efforts.
“That was one tough game” said a clearly exhausted O’Reilly, who was named Liberty Insurance Player of the Match.
“Credit to Waterford, they had our hearts in our (mouths) at half-time and it was no fluke. They outworked us, they were on to every breaking ball but thankfully a bit of experience got us over the line in the second half and do you know what? It’s a bit of relief to be honest.
“Myself and Noreen said it to each other at half-time, we didn’t get too much ball in the first half but when you’re in that full-forward line you’ve just to be patient. I think when the ball got into us in the second half, we showed what damage we could do.
“Credit to Carrie as well, she kept us in the game with all those frees and myself and Noreen got those scores (at the end) when we needed them.”
“We reset at half-time and the second-half performance was excellent” added Murray. “It’s not going to be good enough to bother a Cork or a Kilkenny but the prize today was always to be in the Semi-Final after the game. The performance mightn’t have been what we wanted but the second half was super and we’re delighted to win it.
“At different times this year things haven’t been going for us but we stuck with it. Stay working hard, stay doing the right things. When we play really, really well, which we did in the second half, we can do damage and the second half was excellent.
“Any time we got ball into Ailish O’Reilly and Noreen Coen in the full-forward line they looked really dangerous.
“We’re used to winning Quarter-Finals I suppose but we’ve to carry that forward now to two weeks’ time.”
SCORERS FOR GALWAY: C Dolan 0-10(fs); A Donohue, A O’Reilly 1-0 each; N Kilkenny, N Coen 0-2 each; C Murphy, R Hennelly 0-1 each
SCORERS FOR WATERFORD: B Carton 1-4(0-2fs, 0-1 45, 1-0 pen); S Curran 1-0(f); A Lyng 0-2; F Morrissey, N Rockett 0-1 each
GALWAY: Sarah Healy, Shauna Healy, S Dervan, H Cooney, T Kenney, E Helebert, L Ryan, A Donohue, A M Starr, C Dolan, S Spellman, N Kilkenny, N Coen, M Cooney, A O’Reilly
Subs for Galway: C Cormican for M Cooney (ht), C Murphy for Starr (40), C Finnerty for Spellman (59), R Hennelly for Donohue (60)
WATERFORD: B O’Regan, S Harney, I Heffernan, K Lynch, C McGrath, S Curran, L Bray, O Hickey, B Carton, F Morrissey, N Rockett, T Jackman, Á Lyng, A Fitzgerald, S Lacey
Subs for Waterford: K Corbett Barry for Morrissey (41), C Whyte for Hickey (49), M Power for Harney (59), E Roche for McGrath (60+4)
REFEREE: Owen Elliott (Antrim)