Wexford showed their championship mettle once more by carving out a desperately hard-earned 1-11 to 1-10 victory over Offaly in the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland senior camogie quarter-final at Portlaoise writes Daragh Ó Conchúir.
JJ Doyle’s team will now play old rivals Galway, who had a much easier time recording a 2-19 to 0-9 victory over Tipperary.
With no seeding in the draw, that leaves the other semi-final between Cork and Kilkenny, who both progressed to the last four directly by virtue of their 100% runs through the group stages.
Wexford, who were without injured captain Mary Leacy but could call upon the fit-again Katrina Parrock, got off to a brilliant start and were leading by 1-4 to 0-1 by the 14th minute. Fiona Kavanagh got them under way with a point after four minutes and two more from Ursula Jacob, in conjunction with a Brid Gordon score, gave them a nice early cushion.
Elaine Dermody converted a 45 for Offaly but Stacey Kehoe found the net at the other end of the pitch after receiving a pass from Kavanagh to put six points between the sides.
Rather than wilting though, Offaly upped the tempo impressively and registered five points in a row. Dermody provided three of them and Tina Hannon the other two, and while Jacob had the last say in the half, at 1-5 to 0-6, this tie was back in the melting pot.
It was nip and tuck throughout the second half with Siobhan Flannery, Hannon and Dermody adding points for the Tricolours, Parrock and Jacob (two frees) raising white flags for their never-say-die opponents.
Offaly were throwing everything at Wexford though and a goal from Michaela Morkan in the 42nd minute gave them the lead. Jacob levelled but Dermody hit back once more and Aidan Franks’ charges were 13 minutes from glory.
Wexford have been finding a way to prevail all-season despite suffering numerous setbacks and did so once again. Kate Kelly was the inspirational force in the make-or-break group game against Clare and the experienced midfielder was magnificent once more.
The St Ibars/Shelmalier player brought the sides level in the 53rd minute before Jacob notched up her seventh point from a free to snatch it and deny a dreadfully unlucky Offaly.
Tipperary began well against Galway, with Julie Kirwin and Cáit Devane providing a good foundation for them in the heart of the defence. The Premiers led three times inside the opening eight minutes thanks to Nicole Walsh (twice) and Noreen Flanagan.
Galway kept with their opponents thanks to Niamh Kilkenny, Emma Kilkelly and Ann Marie Hayes and gradually began to impose themselves. Three points from Niamh McGrath and a goal on the half-hour by player of the match Ailish O’Reilly, after good work by Emer Haverty and Brenda Hanney, gave the westerners a 1-11 to 0-5 half-time lead.
Tipp had the wind in second half and came out positively with scores from Walsh (free) and Sarah Fryday but McGrath and Molly Dunne replied for Galway, who had Therese Maher, Lorraine Ryan and Hanney showing extremely well.
O’Reilly, who is in her first season of senior camogie, finished the game with a cracking 43rd minute goal. Hanney was involved once more and it was Dunne who offloaded to O’Reilly. The young Oranmore/Maree sharpshooter rocketed a shot to the roof of the net to extend the margin to 12 points.
It was a stroll from there for Tony Ward’s outfit. All six of their starting forwards scored, while Maria Brehony and Noreen Coen came off the bench to grab points as well and put the Tribeswomen in good heart for the latest instalment of their rivalry with Wexford.
Meanwhile, Waterford star Trish Jackman claimed the M Donnelly All-Ireland Poc Fada title for the fifth consecutive time on the Cooley Mountains.
Jackman faced opposition from Catriona McCrickard (Down), Bronagh Mone (Armagh), Niamh Mackin (Louth), Deirdre Colfer (Wexford), last year’s runner-up Martine McMahon (Limerick) and Caitriona Daly (Galway).
This time it was Daly that pushed the Gaill Tír clubwoman all the way with the Connacht champion’s 28 pocs just one more than the champion’s. McMahon had to be content with third this time around on 30 pocs, with McCrickard just behind in fourth on 31.