Eoghan Cormican of the Connacht Tribune looks at the clash of Galway and Wexford
The two dominant forces in camogie come to face to face once again in the final of the Irish Daily Star Division One Final, where Galway will be anxious to atone for last September’s All Ireland final defeat when they meet reigning champions Wexford at Semple Stadium, Thurles on Sunday (12:45pm).
Despite a few knocks and niggles picked up during the weekend’s club action Noel Finn and his mentors, Helena Huban, Peter Kelly, Noel Power and Bertie Sherlock, have a full panel to choose from when they sit down to decide on the starting fifteen later in the week.
Although the semi-final victory marked a huge psychological boost, the management may be tempted to rejig the midfield and half-forward line, but apart from that it will be a case of as you were for Sunday’s tie.
While the possible return of Brenda Hanney to the starting line-up will be a major boost for the attack, Galway’s main concern this week will be to iron out the defensive problems which were most evident during the first half of the Kilkenny tie.
Nevertheless, if Galway can secure a decent supply of possession, then the forward zip is certainly there with Veronica Curtin and Noreen Coen thriving on the plentiful delivery of crisp low ball in Nowlan Park a fortnight ago.
Added to this, Aislinn Connolly looked extremely comfortable in her centre forward role, while outside of the Castlegar stickwomen, minors Niamh McGrath and Rebecca Hennelly showed, in patches, their ability to cause trouble. The wide open spaces of Semple Stadium will suit Galway’s attack, but likewise Wexfords Katrina Parrock and Kate Kelly are also blessed with lightning speed. Parrock, in particular, will require close observation.
Speaking ahead of the final Manager Noel Finn expressed delight at the character shown in the semi-final adding that the injection of young blood into the panel has really increased competition for a starting berth.
“”The girls showed great character to come back twice. We went three down after their (Kilkenny) second goal and then hit five without reply to come out on top.
“”We’re very happy with younger players on the panel. It’s a big step up from minor to Senior. Senior players are bringing them along cause its daunting for them to be playing alongside the more experienced girls, but there are five of six of them and they are doing well. We have a good panel this year probably stronger than last year.
After coming through a thrilling encounter against Kilkenny in the semi-final, with Galway scraping through on a scoreline of 0-14 to 2-7, the Westerners now face their biggest challenge in a bid to reclaim a title they last won in 2005.
“”Wexford have a strong panel. It is much the same team as last year with some new players such as (Evelyn) Quigley and (Lisa) Bolger. They are a good physical side and we will need to move the ball quick,”” said Finn.
Seeking a third straight National League crown, defeating Tipperary and Kilkenny in 2009 and 2010 respectively, JJ Doyle’s charges are a formidable outfit backboned by Mags Darcy, Catherine O’Loughlin, Claire O’Connor and the colossal Mary Lacey.
They cantered into Sunday’s final courtesy of a 4-12 to 0-13 win over Tipperary and in truth, have yet to be tested this year, easily brushing aside the challenge of Galway when the sides met in the first round of the league back in February.
Their attacking unit led by Una Lacey is fleeced with pace, skill and a plethora of astute score-getters. Consequently, Galway’s rearguard will have their hands full attempting to constrain the likes of Katrina Parrock, Ursula Jacob, Lenny Holohan and the aforementioned Lacey.
That said, the Galway manager is quietly confident that his troops can scupper Wexford’s three-in-a-row bid. “”If we’re there at half time it will take a good side to beat us. If we go seven or eight down we have no chance. We need to start well and get a couple of points on the board.
“”A bounce of a ball is all that will be in it. Finals are there to be won and it would be a great confidence boost heading into the championship. Finals are hard to call. You need that bit of luck on the day, but training has gone really well. The first touch has come a lot easier. We are going down with a great chance.””
Succinctly determined to atone for the pain and hurt of last year’s All Ireland final defeat, Galway might well shade the latest instalment of camogie battles between the two counties.