By Daragh Ó Conchúir
A 48th minute goal by ace poacher Ailish O’Reilly turned the Very Camogie League Division 1A tie between Cork and Galway on its head, propelling the visitors to a 1-11 to 1-10 victory at Páirc Uí Chaoimh that rubber-stamped the champions’ place in the final against the Rebels in two weeks.
Cathal Murray’s outfit were given a chance as two injury-time points by Kilkenny’s Denise Gaule consigned Tipperary to a 0-14 to 0-13 loss to at UPMC Nowlan Park yesterday.
Had the Premiers won, Galway would have needed a mathematical miracle to advance. Due to that result, a draw was sufficient but they were able to inflict a first reverse of the campaign on Cork.
With the two teams scheduled to kickstart the championship in the first round, they will be very well acquainted by the first week in June.
Galway supporters got an early boost when much like Dublin footballers and Stephen Cluxton, they saw two-time All-Ireland-winning captain and seven-time All-Star, Sarah Dervan arriving with the squad.
The visitors’ greater need was evident for most of the first half. Yet despite their dominance for 20 minutes or so, they only went in at the break level on 0-6 apiece, as the Rebels managed to reset and find a completely different level of workrate and intensity in the closing 15.
Carrie Dolan and Amy O’Connor have been their teams’ leading scorers and they exchanged early points but it was the former who had far more of a say, as Cork were unable to get their talisman into the game at all and on the rare occasion the sliotar did go somewhere in her vicinity, the likes of Rachel Hanniffy, Shauna Healy and Róisín Black were commanding.
Less than 24 hours after scoring a goal for the footballers in their win over All-Ireland champions Meath, Libby Coppinger was imperious at the other end but Dolan restored Galway’s advantage with a lovely score from play and by the time she scored her fifth point, her side was leading by 0-6 to 0-2.
They failed to score again in the half though, as Cork, following a stoppage for treatment to Laura Treacy, moved up a couple of gears, led by the athleticism and shooting of Saoirse McCarthy.
McCarthy has flourished since being relocated to midfield this term and she thundered into the fray with three consecutive points. A pointed free by O’Connor brought the teams level.
The momentum continued with Matthew Twomey’s side after the resumption, Fiona Keating and Sorcha McCartan, from a long-distance free, pointing either side of a score from Shannon Corcoran.
A 42nd minute goal from Emma Murphy seemed significant in a such a low-scoring encounter and a glorious score it was. Cork worked it out in trademark fashion from a short puckout to Méabh Cahalane, who drove forward before delivering towards Murphy. The Glen Rovers forward used her body well to make space, soloed in from the flank and from a very tight angle close to the endline, sent a rasper to the net.
A further boost came with the arrival of Orla Cronin for her first appearance of the season, having stepped away last year but disaster struck – for Cork and Tipperary – when Molly Lynch, who had been the epitome of poise between the posts, mis-controlled. That allowed O’Reilly to close her down and then block the netminder’s attempted pass. O’Reilly latched onto the sliotar first and hit a ground-shot to the net.
That put a pep in the Galway step and three pointed frees from Dolan to bring her tally to nine edged them home.
Dublin will be relegated to Division 1B despite continuing their progressive arc and securing a 1-10 to 1-10 draw against Clare at Cusack Park but they needed an eight-point win to send the Banner down instead.
It was a first point on the board for Gerry McQuaid’s charges, who led by 0-8 to 0-6 when Eimear Kelly struck for a goal for the home team. The Dubs battled back and while it wasn’t enough to secure top-tier status in the League, last year’s All-Ireland quarter-finalists showed enough to suggest they can be competitive again in the championship.