By Daragh Ó Conchúir
Tipperary are back in the knockout stages of the Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championships after securing their second victory from two Group 2 games when beating Wexford by 3-15 to 0-12 at Bellefield.
The seven-season unbroken run in the last six came to end 12 months ago on score difference but new manager Denis Kelly has no such worries in his maiden campaign as the Premiers have qualified with a game to spare.
Wexford will need a comprehensive win over Dublin and hope that Tipp can do something similar to Kilkenny if they are to progress but must first address their slow starts. For the second tie in succession, Colin Sunderland’s outfit left themselves with a mountain to climb but unlike a fortnight ago, when they secured a draw after falling ten points behind Kilkenny, they were unable to rescue the situation this time.
Eimear McGrath had a point on the board for Tipperary when Cáit Devane came up with an inventive finish for a goal in the fifth minute despite the best efforts of Ciara Storey, who thought she had done enough but the sliotar was adjudged to have crossed the line by the umpire.
Points from Chloe Foxe and Ciara O’Connor, who finished with nine, looked to settle the home team but Grace O’Brien, Teresa Ryan and Karin Blair raised white flags for Tipp before Ryan slammed a 12th minute goal after good work from the very prominent Karen Kennedy and a sublime cross-field pass by Devane to Eimear Heffernan, who provided the final assist.
O’Connor fired three points and Linda Bolger two as Wexford looked to eat into the nine-point deficit but five was as close as they got, Devane, Blair, Heffernan and McGrath enabling the Blue and Golds to establish a 2-10 to 0-8 lead at the interval.
The second half was poor, with scores at a premium until Róisín Howard bagged a goal from 13m on the hour and Devane struck two injury-time points.
Meanwhile, two goals in five minutes mid-way through the first half sent All-Ireland champions Kilkenny on the way to their first victory, getting the better of a spirited Dublin by 3-14 to 0-11 at Parnell Park.
The home team had the wind in the first half and used it to good effect early on, teenager Aisling O’Neill pointing from the first attack. Denise Gaule equalised with the first of her tally of 1-9, 1-5 of which came from placed balls, and the teams would go on to be level four times in the first eight minutes.
Grace O’Shea shot two points for the home team and Aisling Maher another, while Katie Power, Gaule and Kellyann Doyle were on target for the Cats.
Gradually though, the visitors began to hit their straps and they registered 2-4 before Maher tagged on Dublin’s next score.
Gaule splitting the posts either side of a Katie Nolan score, before last year’s victorious captain, Aoife Prendergast goaled at the quarter-mark. Nolan latched onto a break to send a rasper to the corner of the net shortly after.
Maher and Aisling Gannon did steady the ship with three points between them and it was 2-10 to 0-7 at half-time, but Kilkenny removed all hope immediately after the restart when Gaule goaled from a 20m free awarded for a foul on the former player of the year.
It was 0-4 apiece for the remaining half-hour as Dublin battled hard, Maher and O’Neill slotting good points while Asha McHardy came off the bench to bag a brace for Kilkenny, who have that tussle with Tipp to come. Dublin must get the better of Wexford to avoid getting drawn into a relegation play-off.