Compiled by Daragh Ó Conchúir
Croke Park will be a sea of maroon on September 8th after Westmeath ended the run of last year’s finalists Down while Galway inflicted a second consecutive Semi-Final defeat on Tipperary to book their places in the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Intermediate Championship Final.
Both ties were dramatic affairs. Westmeath prevailed over Down by 2-11 to 1-13 at St Tiernach’s Park, Clones to return to Headquarters just two years after making the step up to the second tier having annexed the Premier Junior title.
Megan Dowdall had a goal and a point, while Pamela Greville converted three frees as the Lakesiders led by 1-6 to 0-7 at half-time.
Niamh Mallon scored five of Down’s points, with two of those coming from play, while the long-serving Fionnuala Carr provided a couple of scores too, one of which came from a free.
The key score in the second half was Shiela McGrath’s 39th minute goal and it was a thing of beauty, as the St Munna’s attacker raced through onto a delightful flick by Dowdall before drilling a howitzer to the roof of the net.
That put five points between the teams and it was a sufficient margin in the end, although only just as Down through everything at Johnny Greville’s crew.
Substitute Saoirse Sands looked very lively after her introduction and turned sharply on a loose ball to goal with a fine shot off the sod with 10 minutes left. Mallon brought her tally to eight but Down’s tally of 11 wides was to prove significant and Westmeath held on.
In the other Semi-Final, Tipperary started very well with the aid of a strong wind in Cratloe and established a four-point lead thanks to two points each from Jenny Grace and Andrea Loughnane and a neat score from the threatening Clodagh McIntyre.
Sabrina Larkin and Laura Shinners were excellent in the heart of the Tipp defence but Galway began establishing a foothold in proceedings and went in front, despite hitting five wides. Ava Lynskey struck for a goal and a point and Rachel Moynihan found the target from a free but it was Tipp that led at the break, 1-5 to 1-4, after corner-back Beth Ryan goaled just before the short whistle.
McIntyre soloed through for a brilliant goal early in the second half but Tipp would not score again.
Galway clawed themselves back into proceedings thanks to points from Moynihan but despite playing with the elements, they were making hard work of breaking down a Tipp defence in which Larkin was magnificent as a sweeper.
Lynskey finally got them in front just into injury time before substitute Niamh Horan goaled within 40 seconds of her introduction to confirm the Tribeswomen’s qualification.