By Kevin Egan
Cork are headed for the Littlewoods Ireland Division One Camogie league final after Chloe Sigerson’s 55-metre free in the fourth minute of stoppage time gave them the draw they needed at the end of a tense and windswept clash with Kilkenny at Páirc Uí Chaoimh yesterday.
There were immaculate underfoot conditions but driving rain and a swirling diagonal breeze made life tough for both teams. Kilkenny made light of difficulty in the early stages when they picked off the opening score through Miriam Walsh after 14 seconds, and they doubled their lead from a free after just three minutes, though it could have been so much more but for a superb double save from Cork captain and goalkeeper Amy Lee, who denied successive efforts from Niamh Deely and Walsh.
Another quick fire brace of scores from Katie Power and Walsh around the midway point in the first half made it 0-4 to 0-1 in favour of the visiting side, but Kilkenny didn’t score from play for the remainder of the game. An inspirational run and point from Aisling Thompson kickstarted Cork’s revival and at just 0-5 to 0-4 behind at half time with the wind to come, they looked like the team in the better position going into the second 30 minutes.
Four minutes into the second half the Rebels were in front for the first time thanks to a Katrina Mackey goal, the Douglas player capitalizing when Aoife Norris took a split second to come off her line and cut out a long delivery into the Kilkenny square from Amy O’Connor.
With conditions worsening, the contest deteriorated into a physical battle with most of the play in the middle third of the field, with Cork struggling to make their greater share of possession count.
Kilkenny’s bench impact was also significant, never more than when Mary O’Connell was dragged to the ground inside the square in the 52nd minute, and an inch-perfect penalty from Denise Gaule found the bottom corner of the net and pushed Kilkenny 1-7 to 1-6 in front.
The sides traded points, Gaule bringing her tally to 1-3 for the afternoon with what looked like the winning score until Mackey was deemed to have been fouled by Claire Phelan with the last attack of the game, and Chloe Sigerson stepped up to send her team through to the league final with a clinical dead ball finish to make it 1-8 apiece.
Either Tipperary or All-Ireland champions Galway will be Cork’s opposition in the final after a powerful first quarter gave Tipperary enough cushion to withstand a strong second half-showing from Dublin at the Ragg.
It finished 1-12 to 1-8 in favour of the home side, with Dublin scoring first through a wonderful Kerrie Finnegan point before Cáit Devane, Grace O’Brien and Claire Hogan struck back with some excellent points.
A fantastic incisive run from Clodagh McIntyre opened the door for Casey Hennessy to take a pass and crash in the game’s opening goal after 14 minutes to make it 1-4 to 0-1, but Dublin responded brilliantly with three of the next four points of the game, all from the stick of Aisling Maher.
Grace O’Brien and Caoimhe McCarthy restored Tipperary’s six-point lead but Kerrie Finnegan’s goal dragged Dublin back into the game with a goal after 22 minutes.
It was 1-9 to 1-5 at half-time but the scores dried up after the interval, with no flag raised until Cáit Devane fired over a free in the 17th minute. Dublin found some form in the last ten minutes with a well-taken point from Jody Couch and two more frees from Maher, but they left it too late to salvage the win they needed to keep their final chances alive.
At the other end of the table, Down had a heroic effort to come from two points behind at the interval to pick up a 2-11 to 3-6 win over Offaly at Liatroim Fontenoys.
In what was effectively a relegation semi-final given the results that have already happened in the group, 2-4 from Niamh Mallon was the vital contribution for the Mourne County, while Offaly will hope that their fortunes can improve when they welcome back their All-Ireland winning St. Rynagh’s contingent for the relegation decider against Limerick.
It looked for all the world as if it would be Clare who would be condemned to finish bottom of their group and fight it out with the Faithful County when Limerick took an 0-11 to 1-5 win into the final quarter of their game with Clare at the TUS Gaelic Grounds, but a point from Zi Yan Spillane in the 55th minute kickstarted a run of five scores in a row for the Banner girls, who picked up their first win over the season by 1-10 to 0-11.
Áine O’Loughlin found the net for Clare in the first half but Limerick used the wind well and were 0-9 to 1-2 up at the break, with Caoimhe Costello carrying the bulk of their scoring load.
A low-scoring third quarter suggested that Clare weren’t going to be able to reel in their neighbours, but Spillane’s score was followed up by points from Claire Grogan, Eimear Kelly and Chloe Morey to snatch the victory.