KILKENNY will be hoping that it’s third time lucky when they take on Galway in the battle for an All-Ireland final berth.
Nowlan Park will play host to the two senior camogie semi-finals this Saturday when, for the second time in three years, Kilkenny and Galway square up to one another in what should prove to be a blockbuster (throw-in 2pm).
The two counties have met eight over the last four years, with Kilkenny winning five of those contests. However, Galway have won the two previous clashes between the counties so far this year.
Back in April, Galway produced a late surge to overcome Kilkenny by a solitary point (0-14 to 2-7), with veteran Veronica Curtin grabbing the winning score.
The two teams last clashed as recently as a month ago, after both had already qualified for the semi-finals. In a full blooded contest Galway emerged on top by three points (0-12 to 0-9) in Duggan Park, Ballinasloe although both sides squandered numerous goal-scoring chances, including a penalty apiece.
Galway topped the round robin section along with Wexford, winning six of their seven games. Kilkenny, as well as losing to Galway, were beaten by the Model County girls in Wexford Park, going down by 1-14 to 1-9 against the defending All-Ireland champions.
Galway are a formidable outfit as they proved in their opening game when they easily beat Wexford by 2-14 to 0-9.
Veronica Curtin came off the bench to score two goals late in the first half, while goalkeeper Susan Earner pulled off two important saves.
Galway possess a wealth of skill and experience throughout, having contested two of the last three All-Ireland finals.
Susan Earner is a quality goalkeeper, while Sinead Cahalane and the stylish Anne-Marie Hayes are excellent defenders. The defence can also boast Therese Maher, a gifted player who has been operating at centre-back throughout the championship.
In attack, Galway have the players who are match-winners on their day.
All-Star Brenda Hanney has had such a great year, captaining Killimor to club All-Ireland success. She is a handful and has proved so against Kilkenny in the past while Aisling Connolly is also a current All-Star and a prolific sharpshooter, particularly from frees. Discipline will be key for Kilkenny.
As for Kilkenny, they seem to have timed their rise to peak performance levels just right.
Catriona Ryan is one of the most dependable goalkeepers around, while the full-back line of Colette Dormer, Catherine Doherty and Jacqui Frisby has impressed on numerous occasions.
Back to her best
Team captain Elaine Aylward is back to her very best on the half-back line while Anne Dalton is one of the first names on manager Anne Downey’s team sheet.
Most encouragingly, the attacking division is becoming more settled.
Michelle Quilty has been in flying form throughout the championship, and looks a good bet for an All-Star.
Denise Gaule has produced her best form with the county over the last month. The Windgap forward has also made a major impression against Galway in the past, including 0-3 from play against the Westerners on her inter-county senior debut in 2009.
Aine Fahey, Shelly Farrell, Marie Dargan and Edel Maher are all in contention to start, with three of those four almost certain to make up the remainder of the attack.
On the bench there is the experience of Lizzie Lyng, the youthful Kelly Hamilton and Marie O’Connor, who has fond memories of playing Galway - her last gasp goal snatched victory in that epic 2009 semi-final clash.
The Kilkenny version of 2011 is a much more rounded version than the 2009 edition. With a strong team assembled, the challenge for Anne Downey and her mentors is to the get the selection spot on.
Achieve that, and an All-Ireland final place beckons.