By Séamas McAleenan, at Croke Park
After watching Tipperary rip Antrim apart in the second half of Saturday’s Glen Dimplex All-Ireland senior camogie quarter-final, manager Denis Kelly was pleased to get a game in Croke Park at this point in the summer.
“Going straight through to the semi-finals, like Galway and Waterford have done, has its attractions,” Kelly admitted. “You like to get extra time to prepare for the semi-final. But who doesn’t want to get a game in Croke Park?
“We had to take Antrim very seriously. They worried us for a good while during that first half, playing an extra defender and we found it difficult to play against them.
“But we got a bit of a lead before half-time, came in and settled down. In the second half we went back to basics with a high work rate and it really stood to us for the rest of the game.”
Kelly agreed that his team had more experience than Antrim coming into Croke Park and that experience told before the end.
“Antrim have come a huge distance in the last few years. It’s like building blocks, you have to take it step by step. They took a beating here today, but they got this far and they now will have a taste for playing at this level and it will stand to them.
“I would be happy enough with my own girls, the second half especially. Some of our subs came in…. Eimear Heffernan had a fabulous game, Caoimhe McCarthy, Mary Ryan all our subs came in there and made an excellent contribution and that is what you want. You want it to be difficult picking a team for the semi-final and also knowing that there are players on the bench who can make things happen too.
“We had two girls who were sick there today…. Casey Hennessey and Grace O’Brien. They started, but we had to bring them off early. They will be back fighting fit this week and looking their place back.”
Cáit Devane scored two goals and six points that included a quite brilliant shot over her left shoulder from underneath the Hogan Stand and then a sublime finish for her second goal. That contribution didn’t go unnoticed with the Clonulty-Rossmore forward picking up the Player of the Match accolade.
“Cáit made a big contribution. But look, she can’t do that unless she is getting a supply of the ball and she would be the first to say that. Tipp teams used to depend fully on Cáit. If she was held in a game, you were beat. This team isn’t like that. There are scores coming from other sources as well.”
Devane was the last player to reach the changing rooms with the Player of the Match award tucked under her arm. She was thrilled for her team to keep the unbeaten run going.
“Every player wants to be here, playing in Croke Park, the sun shining on your back and it all to play for,” Devane enthused.
“We’re delighted. We have to give Antrim their dues. They made life difficult for us early in the game, but it took us to half-time to work out their weaknesses.
“Last week we played Kilkenny down in Nowlan Park and came away with a draw. We took an awful lot from that game. You measure yourself against the All-Ireland champions and we know that we are not too far off the mark.
“But it’s week-on-week. It’s tough going. We will enjoy today’s win, but it has only got us to the next stage. We will have to re-focus immediately and get sorted for training on Tuesday evening. We have a bigger task ahead of us.
“Our goal now has to be to reach the final. We have got to a number of semi-finals in recent years and then didn’t make the final. We want to be taking the next step. We are prepping for that next step.
“We will see who we get in the draw and then go for it in two weeks’ time.”