CAMOGIE: Kilkenny 1-13 Galway 0-12 (Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Senior Semi-Final)
by Daragh Ó Conchúir, at Croke Park (Kilkenny’s Katie Nolan and Katie Powercelebrates at the final whistle ©INPHO/James Crombie)
Kilkenny came out on top in the latest chapter of their wonderful rivalry with Galway, ensuring that we will have new Glen Dimplex All-Ireland senior champions when they play Cork in the decider.
Galway fought to the final whistle in a bid to hold onto their title but their failure to penetrate the Noresiders’ defence and in particular, to beat outstanding goalkeeper Aoife Norris proved their undoing.
The Cats held the upper hand for most of the second half, from the time Laura Murphy drilled a rasper to the corner of the Galway net from 22m in the 37th minute to put them ahead, just two minutes after Norris had denied Sabina Rabbitte.
The game was played with real pace and jaw-dropping intensity and Kilkenny were quicker out of the traps.
Indeed they produced a lot of the better quality and intent in the first quarter at least but still saw themselves going in trailing at half-time by two, 0-8 to 0-6, after Galway had appeared to weather the storm and begin to make inroads of their own.
Cathal Murray and his crew will think that they should have really led by more, with Norris making three excellent stops, including from a penalty by Galway goalkeeper Sarah Healy, after Michelle Teehan had rugby-tackled Siobhán McGrath to the ground.
While much talk has been of the losses shipped by Kilkenny this year, Julianne Malone’s return after a three-year absence has been a huge plus and she weighed in with four invaluable points from play, including the opener.
When the ubiquitous Katie Nolan pointed 10 minutes in, Kilkenny led by two but Carrie Dolan and Catherine Finnerty brought Galway level.
Mary O’Connell should have goaled after being put through by Miriam Walsh but blazed over and it continued to be nip and tuck, the teams also level on 0-4, 0-5 and 0-6 apiece. Dolan and Ailish O’Reilly provided some separation, either side of Norris’s 28th minute penalty save.
The exchanges were ferocious and Shauna Healy did remarkably well to survive a shuddering hit before offloading to O’Reilly from the deck for the final score of the opening period.
Gaule halved the deficit from a free 50 seconds in but she wasn’t to have a good day on placed balls and Nolan took over later on. GAule was very influential getting on the ball though from her deeper position.
That said, Norris was called into action once more in the 35th minute with her best stop, coming out to narrow the angle as Rabbitte cut in from the left and making a brave stop from point-blank range.
Dolan made no mistake from the 45, but two minutes later, Murphy was generating incredible speed on a drive that gave Sarah Healy no hope. It felt significant.
That said, the indomitable Aoife Donohue slotted a sweet score and Dolan an equaliser from a placed ball and it was in the melting pot with ten minutes and change remaining.
It was Kilkenny that found what was required, with some quite heroic defending keeping Galway scoreless, while at the other end, Murphy, Nolan (free), Malone and Sophie Dwyer edged the Stripeywomen ever closer to the Holy Grail.
SCORERS FOR KILKENNY: J Malone 0-4; L Murphy 1-1; K Nolan 0-3(2fs); M O’Connell, D Gaule (fs) 0-2 each; S Dwyer 0-1
SCORERS FOR GALWAY: C Dolan 0-8(6fs, 1 45); A Donohue 0-2; A O’Reilly, C Finnerty 0-1 each
KILKENNY: A Norris, T Fitzgerald, M Teehan, Claire Phelan, N Deely, G Walsh, S Fitzgerald, L Murphy, K Power, J Malone, D Gaule, M Kenneally, M O’Connell, M Walsh, K Nolan.
Subs: S Dwyer for Kenneally (49); M Bambrick for Murphy (59), A Prendergast for Power (60), Ciara Phelan for T Fitzgerald (60+5)
GALWAY: Sarah Healy, R Hanniffy, S Dervan, H Cooney, E Helebert, Shauna Healy, R Black, A Donohue, Ni Kilkenny, N Hanniffy, A O’Reilly, C Dolan, C Finnerty, S McGrath, S Rabbitte.
Subs: D Higgins for Rabbitte (37); Á Keane for O’Reilly (54); S Gardiner for Helebert (58); S Spellman for McGrath (60)
REFEREE: Andy Larkin (Cork)
Katie Nolan (Kilkenny)
“We knew with Galway, it would be such a battle for the whole match and it was,” said Nolan.
“It could have went either way but, I dunno, there’s something about us this year. There’s a bit of a buzz about us. We’re looking forward to every match. We’ve two weeks to go again and then look forward to that.
“I’d say people are writing us off but I don’t know why they’re writing us off. We’re still unbeaten this year and there’s such a buzz for the camp.
“I treat every match the same, All-Ireland semi-final or final any other match. It’s whoever wants it the most will win it.
“We’re a team. You’re not going to win anything on your own and you need everybody. All of the girls out there will work. We don’t care who scores. Once we come out with the win, no one cares who scores.”
“I take frees for the club but I haven’t hit one in a good while so I’m gonna kill Gaule,” joked a grinning Nolan. “It’s something to go practice now for two weeks.”
“This is what everybody dreams of. I can’t describe it but at the same time, you have to be focussed for the next two weeks. Head down and look forward to it. It’s gonna be another unbelievable battle but we’ll be ready.”
Cathal Murray (Galway manager)
“At the end of the day, Kilkenny were the better team,” Murray admitted. “They took their chances. Unfortunately, we didn’t.
“We created chances in the first half and we didn’t take them to be honest with you. We were still happy with the position we were in at half-time. They started a whirlwind in the second half and got a sucker punch of a goal.
“It took us a while to recover from that and get back into the game. We did but again, we had point chances at the end and didn’t take them. When you are not clinical at this level you are going to be punished.”