By Daragh Ó Conchúir
The semi-final pairings in Division 1 of the Irish Daily Star Camogie League have been decided following the final round of games played over the weekend.
Defending champions Wexford are chasing a four-in-a-row and they will line up against Kilkenny, while last year’s runners-up Galway will go head-to-head with Cork. Both games will take place as part of a mouth-watering double-header on Sunday week.
Clare had a chance of breaking into the last four but needed to beat Galway in Clarecastle on Saturday to force a play-off against Cork. In the end, the Maroons chiselled out a hard-earned 1-11 to 0-10 victory to deny the hosts.
The Tribeswomen were the only Division 1 side not to concede a goal to date and they maintained that record with a wonderful defensive effort that combined aerial power with good reading of the play.
Aislinn Connolly maintained her good conversion rate from placed balls, as Claire McMahon did likewise for the Banner girls, but it was Orla Kilkenny’s 21st minute goal that was the most crucial score of the tie.
That helped Galway into a 1-5 to 0-3 lead at half time and Clare couldn’t peg them back, despite having the benefit of a strong wind after the resumption.
McMahon, Fiona Lafferty and Laura Linnane did raise white flags but with Sinéad Cahalan outstanding in the Galway defence, and Connolly, Brenda Hanney and Jessica Gill keeping the scoreboard ticking over at the other end, Clare’s play-off dreams were dashed.
A third minute goal by Evelyn Quigley sent Wexford on their way to a 1-15 to 0-9 win against Tipperary at The Ragg. Both sides were in experimental mode but it was business as usual for Ursula Jacob, as she set up Quigley’s score and scored six points as the visitors opened up a 1-9 to 0-3 lead at half time.
The sharpshooter tagged on another five points in the second half and with Stacey Redmond and Tracy Nolan impressing, Wexford were never threatened. Tipperary did improve after the resumption, with Jill Horan once again providing their best moments. The brilliant midfielder scored three points but the Premier girls never threatened what would have been a remarkable comeback.
Meanwhile, Offaly secured their first win of the campaign to give themselves a boost ahead of the championship. Dublin played their part in a pulsating tie in Tullamore but just fell short on a 2-15 to 1-14 scoreline.
Elaine Dermody clocked up seven points and Arlene Watkins goaled as the home side laid the foundation for their success in the first half, at the end of which they led by 1-11 to 0-5.
Dermody added another three points in the latter period but Dublin did make a tremendous fist of turning things around. Aileen Murphy pounced for 1-4 and Gráinne Quinn came forward from full-back to fire two points but Offaly held out.