Down produced a stunning second half performance to record a surprisingly comfortable 3-12 to 0-9 victory over Kildare in the All-Ireland premier junior camogie play-off at Ballyholland.
The teams has finished level when meeting earlier in the round-robin campaign and all the indications were that the result would be in doubt right to the very end again.
Kildare actually led at the conclusion of a tight opening period, with Susie O’Carroll and Carol Nolan amongst the scorers.
Although Siobhán Hurley and Róisín O’Connell also got on the mark for Tom O’Mahony’s crew, they were rocked by goals from Catherine McGourty, Fionnuala Carr and minor ace, Niamh Mallon. The trio notched up 3-9 between them, with all bar three points of which came from play.
That means that Down will now play Laois in the semi-final, while Kildare face a stern test against their old rivals Meath, who have emerged completely unscathed from the first phase of action.
Meanwhile, there were further signs at Donaghmore Ashbourne of the giant strides being taken by camogie in Dublin. With the seniors reaching their All-Ireland quarter-final, which they lost by just a point, and the U16s winning the ‘A’ championship for the first time in 30 years, the juniors’ feat in booking a place in the All-Ireland final was also notable.
The Sky Blues had little trouble in their 3-10 to 1-2 success over Offaly, which served as a measure of revenge for the Faithful’s marginal win in the senior battle.
There was never any doubt about this one though, with Elaine Gallery their chief tormentor. The Dublin captain plundered 3-3 and Offaly had little answer to her skills. Michelle Davis did pounce for a goal for Offaly but they were always second best against the Division 4 champions, trailing 2-8 to 1-0 at the interval.
They will play Westmeath in the decider, thanks to their 3-15 to 1-8 defeat of Cavan. It was an entertaining encounter and Cavan had plenty of good moments. Westmeath had too much all-round strength though, with their tally of 3-15 highly impressive in such a well-contested affair.
They didn’t have it their own way and Róisín O’Keeffe was a particular thorn in their sides, recording a personal tally of 1-5.
Even that impressive contribution wasn’t sufficient however, as Westmeath had a scoring threat from more areas of the field. Dinagh Loughlin scored eight points, while Denise McGrath bagged 2-2. Louise O’Connor got the third goal and with Laura Thompson also slotting three points, it was the Lakesiders that progressed to a battle with the Dubs.
Pictured: Niamh Mallon (Down) in action in last year’s All Ireland Premier Junior Final