Sports reporter Lauren Guilfoyle analyses last Sunday’s Littlewoods Ireland Camogie Leagues action, and provides us with a look ahead to next weekend’s fixtures, when semi-finalists will be revealed.
Limerick vs Kilkenny
Limerick have been slowly laying the foundations of a team to compete for honours at the highest level over the last two seasons and look like a force to be reckoned with in summer 2018 thanks to their impressive win in the backyard of the current league champions Kilkenny.
Ann Downey’s side, having lost no game in the campaign thus far, were not under as much pressure to gain maximum points from the contest as the Shannonsiders, who desperately needed a win to keep themselves in contention. Limerick captain Sarah Carey epitomised the determination of the travelling pack, with the ever-reliable Niamh Mulcahy continuing her recent outstanding form with nine points in total, two coming from play. Ahane woman Mulcahy is a most exciting player to watch, having scored 2-27 across 4 games, but Caoimhe Lyons is deserving of credit in seeing out this particular clash.
A personal rally saw Cat’s attacker Ann Dalton scoring 1-1 as the game approached injury time to cut the deficit to just two points, but Lyons hit home a crucial goal to ensure an away day victory – 1-14 to 1-9. John Tuohy would have travelled home happy having won the game without needing Lyons injury time green flag, but those three extra points flesh out Limerick’s points difference in league standings, leaving them superior to both Waterford and Clare, all three teams level on 7 points.
Waterford vs Dublin
Waterford regrouped from their round 3 defeat by Kilkenny and got back to winning ways with an essential victory over the girls from the capital – 1-14 to 1-7. In contrast to Waterford’s consistent league season thus far, Dublin have failed to maintain and carry through their form of 2017 that saw them reach the semi-final stage of championship in David Herity’s first season at the helm, having only registered one win over struggling Meath, despite a promising start with a share of the points against Limerick. Waterford led the Dubs by the smallest of margins at half time, Zoe O Donoghue and Siobhan Kehoe raising green and white flags respectively for the visitors, but the Deise attack led by Beth Carton upped a gear limiting Dublin to just two second half points.
Clare vs Meath
Meath’s time in senior camogie continues to be wrought with turbulence as Clare held an eleven-point surplus at the end of their clash in Ogonnelloe. The Banner girls required nothing less than maximum points from the encounter to keep hopes alive leading into round five, with scoring difference a secondary variable to remain cognisant of. Clare held Meath scoreless for the entire first period, Amy Gaffney opening the visitors account for their only entry with a free scored late in the second half, while Chloe Morey contributed eight of her sides’ 12 points.
Cork vs Tipperary
Tipperary travelled to CIT to face table toppers Cork. Captain Aoife Murray was back between the sticks for the reigning All Ireland champions as her brother and Cork manager Paudie Murray listed a strong starting 15, the half forward line trio of Amy O’Connor, Orla Cronin and Hannah Looney particularly potent.
Cait Devane had the visiting party on the score sheet first with her first score of 11 throughout the clash, and the sides were evenly matched in the first quarter until Courcey Rovers wing forward hit the back of Tipperary’s net to widen the gap to five.
The final scoreline does not reflect a closer encounter as there was just five between the sides with four minutes to play, but green flags from Amy O’Connor and Lauren Homan sucked any remaining hope from the Tipperary pack, the game finishing 3-15 to 0-13.
Galway vs Offaly
The remaining fixture of round 4 formed one element of a double header with current All Ireland, Leinster and League Hurling champions Galway as their female counterparts saw off Offaly in Midday fixture at Pearse Stadium.
It was the Faithful that got off the mark first but the solitary contribution of two goals from Oranmore/Maree forward Niamh Hanniffy between the tenth and twentieth minute set the benchmark quite high as Offaly continued to chase down the gap. Ailish O’Reilly helped herself to Galway’s third goal just before the break lending them a 7 point lead heading in to the second period.
Offaly’s mental resilience showed and asked questions of the Galway defence, Patrice Delaney’s accuracy from placed balls reducing the margin back to 5 but was matched on the opposite end of the pitch through Rebecca Hennelly who operated at centre forward. It was the goals that ultimately decided the result, Galway with nine to spare – 3-11 to 0-11.
A look to this weekend
The league is perfectly placed for an exciting weekend of last round games to decide which two teams from either group will advance to the semi-final stages. In group one, Cork need just one point from their game away to Offaly – who need maximum points and a high winning margin to dispel the threat of a relegation play off.
Galway make the long trek to Wexford with both sides requiring a win in a winner-takes-all scenario to make the second qualification spot their own. Tipperary, having played all their games, must sit and watch how the weekend unfolds hoping Offaly don’t pull off the shock of the year resulting in Tipperary plummeting to bottom place.
Kilkenny are sitting two points clear at the top of group two and will use this weekend to get some well needed game time in for some lesser established players ahead of the summer months as they face Meath. All eyes will be on the meeting of Waterford and Limerick on Sunday as the winner of this clash will see themselves most likely through to a league semi final, but a draw or close winning margin may prove useless if Clare get the better of Dublin one day previous, catching up to both Waterford and Limerick’s score difference.
Follow us on Twitter to keep up to date throughout the weekend as the finishing league table will be slowly pieced together.