Kilkenny manager, Ann Downey
Defending champions, Kilkenny are still on target to win a third Littlewoods Ireland Camogie League Division 1 title in-a-row and fourth in five seasons after getting the better of Galway by 2-10 to 1-9 in Banagher yesterday.
They will face familiar opposition in the decider, with All-Ireland champions Cork making it a repeat of last year’s final and three of the past four All-Ireland finals as a result of their 2-17 to 2-13 defeat of Limerick in CIT.
Kilkenny got off to a dream start thanks to a goal from Leaving Cert student, Aoife Doyle, but four points from Aoife Donohue kept Galway in touch. Although Denise Gaule found the target on three occasions, the sides were separated by just the minimum after 23 minutes.
Tony O’Donovan’s crew were rocked back on their heels by a goal from Julieann Malone and the Cats capitalised on the oppositions uncertainty with four consecutive points from Danielle Morrissey, Gaule, Katie Power and Morrissey again to make it 2-7 to 0-5 at half time.
The westerners composed themselves at the break though and despite being without the Sarsfields contingent that will play in Sunday’s AIB All-Ireland senior club camogie final, they chipped away at the deficit and kept Kilkenny to just three second half points.
Niamh Kilkenny led the resistance with three points to go with an early score from Ciara Murphy. When Rebecca Hennelly provided her trademark goal scoring finish from a penalty in the 58th minute, there was just a goal between the teams.
Ann Downey introduced Anna Farrell in response and the experienced heads reigned as Anne Dalton converted an injury-time free to confirm her team’s place back in another final.
Like their old rivals, Cork got off to a quick start with a goal from Linda Collins. All-Ireland heroine Julia White, Orla Cotter and Orla Cronin provided points but Limerick, looking to get over the penultimate hurdle for the first time in four consecutive appearances at this stage, were in no mood to roll over and points from Niamh Mulcahy, Rebecca Delee and Caoimhe Lyons helped them remain in contention.
Collins was looking very lively though for the Leesiders and she slotted a point before notching up her second goal and suddenly the Rebels were 10 points clear with a minute of normal time remaining.
Limerick needed something dramatic and they found it, with a goal from skipper Sarah Carey and points from Mulcahy and Mary O’Callaghan to make it 2-9 to 1-7 at the interval.
Collins added another couple of points after the resumption and Cotter fired over three as Cork stretched their lead to eight but while Paudie Murray might not be pleased that his side allowed Limerick to get back into it again, John Tuohy will be delighted with the character shown by the Shannonsiders with their backs to the wall.
Mulcahy found the net from a 58th minute penalty as the girls in green poured forward, and when the cultured attacker pointed straight afterwards, it was a one-score game.
As in the other semi-final, however, experience showed and Amy O’Connor stepped up to fire over an insurance point to keep the Munster champions at bay and set up a familiar final pairing.