The group stages of Division 1 in the Littlewoods Ireland Camogie Leagues reached their climax at the weekend, with the four semi final spots rubber stamped. Heading into the weekend, Kilkenny and Cork were guaranteed a place in the knockout stages, but Wexford, Galway, Clare, Waterford and Limerick all had realistic opportunity to continue their progression into the closing stages of the competition.
Kilkenny vs Meath
Table toppers Kilkenny travelled to Trim GAA club to face Meath in a dead rubber game as both side’s league destiny already determined. Amy Gaffney was on target early on for the home side but points from play from Jenny Clifford, Miriam Walsh and Anne Dalton had Kilkenny 0-11 to 0-2 in the lead at the break.
Julieann Malone put the game to bed early on hitting home Kilkenny’s two goals within three minutes of the restart – ruthlessness a trait that seems embedded across the psyche of all small ball players that pull on the black and amber. The Cats eventually eased to a 2-19 to 0-6 victory – Kilkenny progressing as group winners to the semi final stages and Meath destined for a relegation battle.
Cork vs Offaly
Offaly welcomed the unbeaten Cork to the Faithful county and needed a high winning margin to dispel the threat of relegation. Despite already having rubberstamped their semi final spot, Cork fielded a strong starting 15. Offaly’s desperation to avoid relegation woes however, was visible on the pitch through the efforts of the hardworking Debbie Flynn and Patrice Delaney. The reliable Cork attack did enough to keep the scoreboard ticking over in response to Helen Dolan’s two goals, the visitors maintaining their perfect record for the trek home – Cork 2-11 Offaly 2-9.
Dublin vs Clare
Clare needed a large winning margin too to put themselves in contention for qualification but Bainisteoir David Herity inspired a strong performance in his Dublin charges to finish their league campaign on a positive note with a middle of the table league standing. The opening half was a tale of two free takers as Siobhan Kehoe and Chloe Morey exchanged points at either end, Dublin’s Grace O’Shea scoring from play herself to aid the home sides’ two point lead at the break. This was a lead Dublin would never let go of and Clare remained in the hunt until a late Roisin Baker goal opened daylight between the sides, granting the Blues a 1-12 to 0-10 victory.
Limerick vs Waterford
Given Dublin’s victory over Clare one day previous, the clash of Limerick and Waterford at Ballyagran set up the winner to claim second position in league standings and see them through to a final four spot. The teams were on level terms heading into the final few minutes of the first period, Beth Carton’s accuracy from placed balls a constant to cancel out taliswoman Mulcahy’s early green flag, a late converted free also from the Ahane player giving Limerick the half time lead. A Kaiesha Tobin effort hit the back of the Limerick net seven minutes from time to reclaim the lead for the Deise, but the experienced duo of Caoimhe Costelloe and the ever dominant Mulcahy did enough to grasp a draw at the death – 1-9 a piece. Superior scoring difference sees Limerick end Waterford’s league hopes as the Shannonsiders progress to their fourth league semi final appearance on the trot.
Galway vs Wexford
A sizable crowd stayed on to take in the winner-takes-all clash between Wexford and Galway in Innovate Wexford Park, the sunny southeast living up to its name despite the bitter breeze. The game poised the perfect contrast to the hurling game just before, as the sixty minutes served up 6 goals between the sides in contrast to the one solitary successful attempt in the hurling equivalent.
The homeside raced in to an early lead as corner forward Aoife Guiney scrambled home a goal following a short dropping Linda Bolger free, with Una Leacy following suit dispatching a handpassed attempt to the net giving Wexford a 2-1 to 0-5 lead with only 10 minutes played. Rebecca Hennelly’s input from open and placed balls, with assistance from Cappataggle’s Catriona Cormican, kept Galway in firm contention heading into the final few minutes of the first half, until Ailish O’Reilly renewed her goal scoring form from previous rounds and delivered her side’s first green flag of the game.
Galway headed in for the break three points the better. Wexford resumed the half with the wind at their back but also a lowlying sun to manage, and Aoife Guiney was in for her second three-pointer of the day to have the yellow-bellies hopes of progression back on track. Hennelly’s influence from frees having waned striking into the strong breeze, Galway needed a second helping from Ailish O’Reilly to open daylight between the teams again, a deficit Wexford couldn’t adequately close in on despite Una Leacy’s late conversion. Tony O’Donovan has yet to welcome back his massively talented Sarsfield’s contingent, but he may have them to hand in the semi-final stages as club commitments will come to a close next weekend in GAA HQ – Sarsfields meeting Slaughtneil (Derry) in the All Ireland club final for the second time in a row.
The teams will have two weeks to prepare as four become two on March 11th. Undefeated Cork will face Limerick in a repeat of last year’s Munster final where Limerick claimed an unexpected victory. Cork will be hungry to add League honours to their All Ireland title as their competitive campaign is slowly coming to the boil.
Kilkenny, having only dropped points at the hands of Limerick in Round 4, will entertain Galway off the back of their two point victory over Wexford. If both sides can field their strongest 15, an intriguing contest is perfectly poised with the favorites tag swaying in favour of the Cats.