Galway vs. Kilkenny: Semple Stadium, Thurles. Saturday, 18 August 2018
Final Score: Galway 1-7 Kilkenny 1-10
The first of the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Senior Camogie semi-finals in Semple Stadium was a tight, tense affair in which neither team managed to cut loose for the majority of the match. Galway were up against last year’s beaten finalists and league champions – a Kilkenny camogie team who were aiming to get into their third All-Ireland in a row. Both sets of backs were solid throughout the match and while the forwards on both teams showed flashes of brilliance in early exchanges, the edgy nature of the occasion ensured it was not the free scoring match audiences hope for.
Kilkenny manager Ann Downey was forced into a change before throw-in, Miriam Walsh having failed a late fitness test. However, Edwina Keane made a welcome return to the full-back line after an enforced hiatus on the sideline following a cruciate ligament injury. Galway opened the scoring in the first minute through a free from Carrie Dolan and then Denise Gaule reciprocated in kind 3 minutes later after a foul on Shelley Farrell. Kilkenny went 2 points ahead in the 17th minute with a fine score from play by Michelle Quilty but Galway levelled things at 3 points apiece again through a Dolan free with 6 minutes left in the half. The teams were level again on 4 points minutes later when Shauna Healy gained possession and delivered the sliotar into the forwards where it was picked up by Aoife Donohue. Donohue went on a dangerous solo run through the Kilkenny defence and gave a handpass to Ailish O’Reilly who finished an excellent piece of team play with a point. However, Kilkenny regained the lead through Katie Power with what was the score of the half.
Claire Phelan produced an excellent hook to deny a Galway attack, the sliotar found its way to Gaule in midfield who fed Anna Farrell near the left sideline. Farrell drew 2 defenders and scooped the ball over her head to Power who had come around behind her and was running off the shoulder. Power settled and struck the ball over the bar. Julianne Malone added another point for Kilkenny and the sides went in at half time with 2 points between them, 6 points to 4 in favour of Kilkenny.
The low-scoring first half reflected the dominance of both Galway’s and Kilkenny’s backs. It was also an indication of the tension that was plaguing both sets of players. In an attempt to avoid the middle of the park, the sliotar was being sent down the wings and too often ran out over the sideline or popped out of a hand. Catríona Cormican was effectively marking Ann Dalton as an effort to limit Dalton’s influence on the game which was seen when the teams met four weeks earlier in Nowlan Park. Grace Walsh was giving a well-rounded defensive display for Kilkenny, hooking and blocking and being a general hindrance to the Galway forwards.
Upon the resumption of the game, Galway immediately set about reducing the gap through another Dolan free after Niamh Kilkenny was fouled by Dalton following a typically long, winding run towards the Kilkenny goal. Dolan got the next 2 scores for Galway, also from frees, to put the Tribeswomen 1 point ahead after 9 minutes. One of those frees came for a foul on Ailish O’Reilly who demonstrated wonderful skill in controlling the sliotar on her hurl with one touch.
Davina Tobin was penalised with the second yellow card of the match for a foul on Cormican, Heather Cooney having received one in the first half. Kilkenny got their first score of the half on 42 minutes with a point from Malone and the teams were level for the fifth time. Edwina Keane, who was giving a great display in the Kilkenny full-back line, made an important interception when Niamh McGrath fielded a puck out and hit a tempting ball across the Cats’ goal. The decisive score came moments later in the form of a goal for Kilkenny. This was a remarkable team score, worked all the way up from Keane in the full back line, through Malone who had come deep looking for the ball. Malone hit a cross-field pass which was unluckily missed by Ann Marie Starr and gathered by Gaule in midfield, who in turn passed to Tobin. Tobin took off on a run through open space and found Shelley Farrell on the right with a handpass. The untiring Tobin took the return pass, drew 2 defenders and fed the ball out left to Power who handpassed the ball over the goalie and into the net.
Galway had their own goal chance moments later when O’Reilly once again controlled the ball deftly, took on the Kilkenny backs and supplied Niamh Kilkenny on the 21m line. Kilkenny’s shot was stopped at the near post and cleared by goalie, Emma Kavanagh. The Cats scored the next 3 points (2 Gaule frees and a point from distance by Meighan Farrell) to lead by 6 points with 61 minutes gone and 5 minutes of extra time to play. However, Galway were awarded a penalty in the 64th minute after Phelan was deemed to have pushed Donohue to the ground in the penalty area. Rebecca Hennelly, an earlier substitution for Starr, made no mistake from the penalty spot to leave 3 points between them. The tension continued for another 2 minutes until the referee blew the final whistle with the sliotar in the hands of Denise Gaule, helping her team-mates in the Kilkenny defence.
Anne Farrell picked up player of the match and Kilkenny march on to another All-Ireland Senior Camogie Final. Find out how the Cork and Tipperary teams got on in the second semi-final of the day.
Photo Credit: Kilkenny Camogie