Kilkenny 1-13 Galway 0-12
Kilkenny came out on top in the latest chapter of their wonderful rivalry with Galway, ensuring that there’ll be new All-Ireland senior champions when they play Cork in the decider.
Galway fought to the final whistle in a bid to hold on to their title but their failure to penetrate the Kilkenny’s 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 22 metres 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 began 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, she got down bravely to save 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 10 minutes and change remaining.
From there it was Kilkenny who 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 them into the final.
KILKENNY: A Norris, T Fitzgerald, M Teehan, Claire Phelan, N Deely, G Walsh, S Fitzgerald, L Murphy (1-1), K Power, J Malone (0-4), D Gaule (0-2 frees), M Kenneally, M O’Connell (0-2), M Walsh, K Nolan (0-3, two frees). Subs: S Dwyer (0-1) for Kenneally (49 mins); 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 (0-2), Ni Kilkenny, N Hanniffy, A O’Reilly (0-1), C Dolan (0-8, six frees), C Finnerty (0-1), S McGrath, S Rabbitte. Subs: D Higgins for Rabbitte (37 mins); Á Keane for O’Reilly (54); S Gardiner for Helebert (58); S Spellman for McGrath (60)
Referee: Andy Larkin (Cork)
Cork 0-15 Waterford 0-10
Cork survived a titanic tussle with Waterford, overcoming a five-point second-half deficit and only hitting the front for the first time four minutes from the end of normal time to eventually chisel out a five-point victory in a pulsating semi-final at Croke Park.
While it was a relief for Matthew Twomey and his troops that they were able to hit top gear with the last eight points, Derek Lyons and his crew will feel that the final scoreline was scant reflection of their efforts and they would be correct in that assessment.
The game didn’t swing on the availability of Ashling Thompson after the success of her morning appeal against a two-match suspension but it was a huge factor, the Milford powerhouse had a huge impact in terms of breaking up play, and her intelligent distribution.
With Libby Coppinger a resolute presence at full-back, Hannah Looney and former Down star Sorcha McCartan storming into it in the final quarter and Amy O’Connor slotting her placed ball opportunities, Cork just had a little too much for their gallant opponents up the finishing straight.
It was a tactically intriguing affair, with Cork’s forwards lining up in a bunch on the 65 for the throw-in and then settling into three up the spine, usually with Iona Heffernan picking up McCartan (daughter of All-Ireland football winner Greg), Keely Corbett-Barry tagging Katrina Mackey and Mairéad Power marking O’Connor.
Both number sixes, Clodagh Carroll for Waterford and Laura Treacy for Cork were the plus ones in defence, sweeping and taking short puckouts.
One of the big matchups saw Katie O’Mahony shadowing up Beth Carton and it was a battle that the second leading scorer in the championship won from the throw-in until O’Mahony’s withdrawal in the 22nd minute.
By that juncture, Carton had three points on the board, two from play, and the free won for forcing O’Mahony to overcarry, though the suspicion was that she may have fouled the Inniscarra player in doing so on that occasion.
It was symptomatic of Waterford’s work rate however, and it completely knocked Cork out of their comfort zone.
Thompson came on for O’Mahony and quickly moved into the role as spare defender, with Treacy picking up Carton.
Cork, having shot five wides from largely low-percentage shots were failing to provide O’Connor and O’Mackey in particular with any quality of ball due to the pressure being exerted further out — though Corbett-Barry and O’Brien were very sticky too whenever the ball did come in — finally got off the mark through a lovely score from Mackey in the 25th minute, and McCartan split the posts three minutes later.
When Chloe Sigerson lofted over a free from the 65, tight to the right touchline, there were incredibly only two points between them. Earlier, Róisín Kirwan had shot inches over the crossbar when put through by Abby Flynn with the goal on, though Amy Lee’s dash from the line deserves credit for rushing the shot.
Waterford’s response was good though, Flynn and Rockett with a sensational score made it 0-7 to 0-3 at the break, the very least Waterford’s dominance deserved.
Rockett clipped over another less than two minutes after the restart but Cork shot four of the next five points through Mackey, Clíona Healy, O’Connor and Fiona Keating, the latter after a brilliant turnover at the other end of the field by Thompson on Bray, when a point looked on for Waterford.
Rockett fed Bray to make it a three-point game in the 46th minute but with Carton’s influence reduced greatly, Cork found another gear, with the spaces opening up their confidence grew.
O’Connor hit three on the trot to bring the sides level, the second of those came from a 45 after Brianna O’Regan made a brilliant double save from substitute Emma Murphy. Murphy gave Cork the lead with a super score.
Cork were playing with more energy now as Waterford tired and winning more 50-50s as a result. They were also finding more space in the Déise half and McCartan (two), O’Connor and Keating completed the scoring.
CORK: A Lee, M Cahalane, L Coppinger, K O’Mahony, L Hayes, L Treacy, S McCarthy, M Murphy, H Looney, C Sigerson (0-1 free), F Keating (0-2), C Healy (0-1), S McCartan (0-3, one free), K Mackey (0-2), A O’Connor (0-5, three frees, one 45). Subs: A Thompson for O’Mahony (22 mins); E Murphy (0-1) for Sigerson (48); O Cahalane for Healy (55); C O’Sullivan for Murphy (65).
WATERFORD: B O’Regan, K Corbett Barry, M Power, I Heffernan, O Hickey, C Carroll, A Landers, C Griffin, L Bray, R Walsh, A Flynn (0-2), M O’Brien, B Carton (0-4, two frees), R Kirwan (0-1), N Rockett (0-3). Subs: T Power for O’Brien (47 mins).
Referee: Ray Kelly (Kildare)