By Daragh Ó Conchúir
Ailish O’Reilly played down her opportunistic goal that kept Galway’s hopes of a second consecutive Very Camogie League Division 1A title alive at Páirc Uí Chaoimh yesterday, preferring to focus on the character and workrate of the team, and nine points supplied by the remorseless Carrie Dolan.
Yet it was workrate that had O’Reilly hunting down Cork goalie Molly Lynch in the 48th minute. Had Lynch gather the sliotar first time, it would have been for nought but she didn’t.
Even then, O’Reilly had to win the ball back. She blocked Lynch’s attempted pass and was quickest to react then, shooting first time off the sod in the net to bring Galway back level, having fallen behind to a brilliant Emma Murphy goal.
Dolan added three points and Galway inflicted a first defeat of the campaign on Cork by 1-11 to 1-10.
In doing so, they broke the hearts of a Tipperary team that beat them in the opening round. The Premier were denied a win that would have given them a first national final appearance in 14 years by two injury-time points from Denise Gaule that give Kilkenny a 0-14 to 0-13 win in Piltown on Saturday.
“Game like that are a blur playing them but there was a lot on the line for us,” said O’Reilly. “We could do with another game in a couple of weeks’ time to break up that gap till championship.
“We started really well. I think we’d a lot of the hurling done and we were level at half-time. They got a goal and we reacted to it thankfully. We’re reacting to those downs better than we have in previous years.
“We were severely disappointed by that Tipperary game but we’ve learned so much from it, it was a blessing in disguise really. We’ve a fairly new team, with a fair few girls coming through.
“Cork have been flying it and to go toe-to-toe with them and come out with the win was huge for a team morale point of view. We still have a lot of work to do and we’re not going to get carried away. We’re going to meet all those strong teams again but it’s a step in the right direction.”
The way the former All-Star tells it, the goal was the least she could have contributed but she is no stranger to big moments, having been a match winner in the 2019 All-Ireland final with her penchant for billowing the net.
“Her mis-control gave me an extra second to get there. Thankfully I blocked her and finished it. It made up for the few wides I had and a few other mistakes but you’ll take it when you get it.
“We talk about workrate, it’s not a choice at this stage, and we had to up it in comparison to our other games.
“Carrie has been clinical from the day she put a Galway jersey on her and she proved it again today, thankfully.”
Galway and Cork will also get the championship off to a mouth-watering start on June 3rd but O’Reilly bats away any notion that this will have any impact on the approach in a fortnight’s time.
“We’ll look at it as one game. We’ll have an eight-week gap to championship then and a lot can change in that time. When you get to a League final, you don’t go there to lose so we’ll be going all out.”
The cherry on top, on a day to remember for Galway camogie was the return of two-time All-Ireland-winning captain and seven-time All-Star defender, Sarah Dervan to the match-day group.
“It’s great to have her experience back there again, her presence is huge. She’s good to go now. I don’t know if she’ll be playing in a couple of weeks, that’ll be up to management but she’s working hard and to have her back in is a great boost. We’re getting there slowly but surely.”
At the other end of the table, Dublin were relegated despite gaining the first point of the campaign in a 1-10 to 1-10 draw, which was enough to keep the Banner in the top tier.
In Division 2B, Meath edged out Derry by 1-9 to 0-10 to secure a place in the final against Kerry, who beat Laois by 2-15 to 1-5 on Saturday to top the table thanks in no small part to ten points from Patrice Diggin.
Aoife Minogue and Grace Coleman shot three points each for the Royals while Caroline Quinn hit the crucial goal. Derry, who would have advanced with a draw due to a superior score difference, were ironically overly reliant on Áine McAllister, who provided seven points as they fell just short.