EIMEAR MCDONNELL made a sensational return as Tipperary powered their way to the Division One National League final at Semple Stadium yesterday. The former All Star who took a year out fired 2-6, all from play, totally outclassing defending champions Kilkenny on a hefty scoreline of 2-19 to 0-13 whilst qualifying for the final against Wexford next Saturday.
Along with McDonnell, this curtain-raiser to the NHL tie between Tipperary and Limerick also saw the return of Una O’Dwyer, Suzanne Kelly and Paula Bulfin to the Blue and Gold jersey. The home side led 1-11 to 0-5 at the break, and the Premier side were grateful to Clare Grogan’s accuracy from placed balls (0-9) along with McDonnell’s opening goal which arrived a couple of minutes before the interval.
McDonnell, who lined out in her customary left corner forward position admitted to being nervous prior to throw-in.
“”When your first match back is in Semple Stadium and it is against League champions Kilkenny, there aren’t too many places to hide,”” she joked.
“”I was a bit anxious as I hadn’t played in over 12 months, but I would have to commend the players around me. When you get good ball, you are half way there.””
Interestingly, McDonnell credited the pristine surface for the high-scoring encounter.
“”Semple Stadium is one of the best surfaces in Ireland. You can read the bounce of the ball, and away you go. In camogie we wouldn’t be used to playing in the bigger stadiums or on such perfect conditions, and sometimes it is impossible to read the play with the sliotar bouncing here, there and everywhere. Today was different, the sun was shining and it was perfect for camogie.””
Tipperary were without selector James Woodlock who was involved with the Tipperary hurlers, yet they showed tremendous form all over the park. O’Dwyer – who would be better known as a full back – played outside McDonnell at wing forward, while Emily Hayden, Joanne Ryan and skipper Geraldine Kinnane were others to stand out in attack.
With Julie McGrath in fine form at midfield, the game was well and truly ended when McDonnell’s second goal was drilled to the net four minutes inside the restart. Kilkenny, who were warm favourites coming into this game, relied on captain Ann Dalton for 11 of their tally.